I guess one thing you should never do regarding Tony LaRussa is assume he’s going to do something. Maybe I’m the only one, but I was surprised when St. Louis announced their rotation for the NLDS. Chris Carpenter was locked into game 3, but I assumed that Jaime Garcia would start game one in Philly because of his historical domination of the home team, but Tony LaRussa has gone another direction, giving the ball to former Phillie, Kyle Lohse. Now, Lohse has very good numbers against the Phillies this year as well and defeated Roy Halladay just a couple of weeks back right after the Phillies clinched, but historically, the Phils have fared much better off Lohse than Garcia.
I imagine LaRussa wanted Garcia to pitch at home (where he has better numbers), or he didn’t want Lohse to have too much time off in between starts, but whatever the reason it’s going to be Halladay/Lohse in game one. The Cardinals will come back with hard-throwing right-hander Edwin Jackson in game 2. In relative terms, compared to the other Cardinals starters, this is another decent match-up for the Phillies with Jackson facing off against Cliff Lee, who has great numbers against all St. Louis hitters not named Lance Berkman. I think with the rotations lined up like this it becomes very important that the Phillies defend home-field, they probably aren’t going to have the edge we were expecting in game four.
When I look at the Tigers, I can’t help but be reminded of the Minnesota teams that relied so heavily on Johan Santana. I remember thinking before the playoffs started in those years that Santana would be a nightmare match-up, a guy that could flip a 5-game series on his own, but that was never the case. Santana didn’t have a great playoff record, when he pitched OK the Twins didn’t give him much help, and they almost always went home after one series. I think most of the fear any team has in playing Detroit is rooted in having to beat Justin Verlander. The Yankees have their hands full. Or do they? Verlander was not very effective in his only post-season (2006), and while he’s certainly a better pitcher now, there’s no guarantee that he’ll continue his regular season dominance. Giving the Tigers game 1, or saying the Yankees will need to win the series in 4 is pretty foolish. Still, the match-up of C.C. vs. Verlander tonight is an epic, and is a great way to kick off the post-season.
Twenty-two people at ESPN made playoff predictions. World Series winners broke down like this: Phillies 11, Texas 6, Milwaukee 3, New York 1, and Detroit 1. I guess what surprised me about this was that the Rangers were the second choice. Being stuck up here on the east coast, I guess my bias against the Rangers comes naturally. They did win the AL last year, and their team doesn’t look much different this time around. I guess my problem with Texas is ace-recognition. No Cliff Lee this year, and I’m always hesitant to pick a team that relies on scoring runs (look at what happened to them against SF last year). I believe C.J. Wilson is a free-agent after this season, so if he really is an ace, and pitches like one this post-season, I’d expect a huge contract offer or two. There are some teams in the AL East that could use some pitching.
I’m sticking with my Rays pick, though. I think they’re on a roll. I think Longoria might carry them for a series. Just a feeling. They’re usually wrong.
NFL Picks will be up later than usual today, but they will be posted. I’d expect sometime around the cocktail hour.