This postseason has been high on drama, but low on games. Three of the Division Series ended in sweeps, and the fourth took just four games. Despite the lopsided outcomes, the games have been intense and suspenseful. October baseball has had all the elements of a memorable postseason. Here are some of the best moments from the first round and a look at the LCS matchups:
In the American League, the Yankees and Angels each swept their opponents.
A-Rod has suddenly morphed into Mr. October. Rodriguez broke out of his horrendous postseason slump in a big way, coming up with big hits in each game. None was bigger than the two-run blast he hit in the bottom of the ninth in Game 3 to tie it up. Rodriguez finished the series with a .455 average, 2 home runs, and 6 RBIs. He was a force offensively, something he had yet to be in postseasons past. With A-Rod clicking, this Yankees club is that much more dangerous. Mark Teixeira’s walk-off home run in Game 3 epitomized the Yankees’ season thus far. This Bombers group looks like a force to be reckoned with this October.
Just as special was the play of the L.A. Angels in their series against the Boston Red Sox. John Lackey was spectacular in his Game 1 win, setting the tone for the rest of the series. Jered Weaver followed Lackey’s lead with a gem of his own. Game 3 was different. Down by two runs entering the ninth, the Angels chances were slim to none of winning. The Red Sox turned to lockdown closer Jonathan Papelbon to finish the game. Papelbon had an immaculate 0.00 ERA in 27 previous playoff innings. Down to their final out, the Angels began a furious comeback. After Bobby Abreu’s double sliced into Boston’s lead, Vladimir Guerrero stepped to the plate. The slugger knocked the ball up the middle to score two runs and win the game. The Angels were headed to the ALCS and the Red Sox were headed home, shocked.
Angels vs. Yankees: These two hot teams of destiny collide in the ALCS. The Yankees look like a well-oiled machine with too many weapons to stop. The Angels have a balanced attack hinging on speed, power, and defense. The Yankees are driven to retake their place at the top of baseball. In the organization’s eyes, it has been far too long since they’ve paraded through the Big Apple. The Angels are motivated to honor their teammate and friend as I have previously mentioned. Will their emotions carry them to victory or will the Pinstripes add to the storied history? In a hard-fought series that goes the distance, I think the Yankees will be too much to handle and will return to the Fall Classic.
In the National League, it’s a rematch of last year’s NLCS pitting the Phillies against the Dodgers.
The Phillies had to battle to get back to the NLCS. Cliff Lee got things off to a smooth start for the defending world champs in Game 1. Lee threw a complete game, giving up just one run in the process. He showed deft command of his pitches, painting the corners all afternoon en route to the win. The Rockies would even the series at one game apiece. Then came Game 3, which was postponed due to snow and freezing temperatures in Denver. When it was played, the Phillies came out on top following a save by Brad Lidge. The finale of the series was even greater. The back and forth game ended in a Phillies comeback win, 5-4. Brad Lidge again got the save. Could “Lights Out” Lidge be back?
The other NL series went to the Dodgers. While the Cardinals were heavy favorites behind Cy Young candidates, it was the Dodgers who came out on top. Los Angeles jumped on Cards’ ace Chris Carpenter and never looked back on their way to the win. Game 2 was characterized by Adam Wainwright’s dominance and Matt Holliday’s costly blunder. Wainwright kept L.A. off balance all night with a nasty curveball. The Cardinals seemed to be on their way to evening the series, but the game was far from over. With two down, James Loney hit a routine fly ball into left field. Matt Holliday charged hard, and missed it. St. Louis was stunned and lost the game. Emotionally deflated, the Cardinals easily lost Game 3. The Dodgers now get a rematch with Philly for a trip to the World Series.
Phillies vs. Dodgers: The Phillies enter the series with “High Hopes” to get back to the big stage. The Phils also have “High Hopes” to honor their longtime voice, Harry Kalas, after he tragically passed during the summer. Somewhere, Harry is waiting to break out in his trademark rendition of Sinatra’s classic. His voice may no longer narrate the beloved games, but it will resonate forever in the streets of Philly. Another interesting storyline will be if Pedro Martinez gets a chance to shine in this series. Pedro has always loved the spotlight as a big game pitcher, why not one last hurrah? On the L.A. side, Clayton Kershaw has the chance to announce himself as an impact player. I see the Phillies moving on in this one. The Phils look like a championship team with the swagger to match.