Astros 8, Braves 5
Yankees 6, Twins 5, 11 innings
Dodgers 4, Cardinals 0
Braves 6, Astros 5
Cardinals 6, Dodgers 2
Yankees win series, 3-1
There wasn't much doubt how this one would turn out, especially after the Twins blew Game 2. Even when the Yankees aren't as good as they're perceived to be, or they've been in past seasons, they somehow seem to get the job done. Now they head into the Red Sox Rematch -- er, ALCS -- with the added drama of "Do It For Mo," Mariano Rivera, who'll be coming back from Panama, where his wife's cousin and the cousin's son died when they were electrocuted while cleaning Rivera's pool. There's always something with the Yankees. The Red Sox have a better chance of pulling it off this year -- it could be their best chance to win the Series since 1986 -- but they've got one particular stat to knock off first: The Yankees have never lost in the ALCS. They're 10-0, including 6-0 since 1996. New York's only postseason losses since returning there in 1995 were in the Division Series (to the Mariners in '95, the Indians in '97 and the Angels in '02) or the World Series (the Diamondbacks in '01 and the Marlins last year). Unless the Yankees beat Curt Schilling once, Pedro Martinez twice or a combination of that, along with taking out Tim Wakefield, this one's going seven games. Schilling could very well win three games this series, and if he does, that'll do it, because the third start, naturally, would be Game 7. And if he doesn't start it, he'll be available out of the bullpen, that's for sure. But as I said in my postseason preview, I can't go against the Yankees here until it happens. I'm rooting for it with my heart, but I'm thinking that it'll be Yanks in seven. We'll see.
Cardinals win series, 3-1
Four games: pegged it. At least Lima Time is back in effect, and it helped the Dodgers end their eight-game postseason losing streak. The Dodgers' pitching wasn't considered all that spectacular by many (a view I held too), so the St. Louis lineup will have to somehow put up the same output against Houston or Atlanta if it wants to move on to the World Series for the first time since 1987. Those teams can hit, and the Cardinals may benefit from the potential of playing four of the seven games at home, but they'll have to keep either the Astros or the Braves off the board at some point to notch a win or two. Depsite the 4-0 Dodgers win in Game 3, the Cardinals still averaged 5.5 runs per game in the series, allowing 3 per game to L.A., which only scored more than three runs in its shutout victory, when, it turned out, one would have been enough. The point is, there will probably be one or two games against either the Astros or Braves in which eight runs is not enough to win.
Astros-Braves series tied, 2-2
I said the Astros would sweep, and instead, it's the only series that comes down to a decisive Game 5. Clearly, I never thought it would be coming back to Atlanta, and my sweep pick was more that I thought the Braves were the most sweep-able team of the eight. Not so much. What Houston has going for it is Roy Oswalt. He's Ace 1A on this team, and he can clearly lead the Astros to their first postseason series victory in the team's 42-year history. But he'll have to go seven or eight innings to do it, which means Houston will need a 3- or 4-run lead to keep him from getting pinch-hit for in the sixth or seventh. So more than just the way he pitches will determine how far he goes in this game. Phil Garner's getting a little heat for the way he's managed this series, and he's a bit lucky to have Oswalt going here because he couldn't use an ill Clemens to pitch the wild-card clincher on the last day of the season, so his division series rotation was set for him. The Astros should've wrapped this one up at home yesterday, and in going with Clemens on three days' rest, why lift him after five? (Ron Gardenhire's getting the same heat for lifting Johan Santana after only five innings, and he deserves it more. Why go with your ace on three days' rest in Game 4? Well, when you're down 2-1 facing elimination, it's logical. But you have to get at least six, if not seven from him.) Anyway, in Game 2, Oswalt went 6 1/3, allowing a run on eight hits and a walk, striking out four. Brad Lidge was asked to go 2 2/3 for the save, and he didn't get it, and Atlanta won on Rafael Furcal's game-winning DWI -- er, game-winning RBI -- a two-run home run in the 11th. Back in May, Houston took two out of three in Atlanta, losing the middle game (started by Oswalt) 5-4 in the 10th on an Andruw Jones home run. Essentially, that's what the Astros would be doing tonight, taking a three-game series in Atlanta after losing the second game. My pick for tonight: 7-2 Astros.
Labels: ALCS, Astros, Brad Lidge, Braves, Cardinals, Curt Schilling, Dodgers, Jose Lima, Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez, postseason, Ron Gardenhire, Roy Oswalt, Twins, Yankees