After four terrible first-round series in the MLB playoffs, we're down to the Final Four. And if you had these final four back in the beginning of the season, well, you're a complete liar. Oh, sure, a lot of people thought the Sox would be good and quite a few may have believed the Indians could bounce back from a poor showing last year, but if you claim you knew the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies would be in the NLCS, you're a big fat liar. So let's get on with it, shall we?
Both of these teams don't belong here. This was supposed to be the Mets and the Dodgers, wasn't it? Or the Mets and Cubbies? Or the Cards and Phils? Anybody but these two. These teams were expected to be at the bottom of the heap in their own division and with just a couple weeks to go in the regular season, the Rockies were indeed near the bottom of the NL West. Well, you know the rest... they went on an unbeliveable, almost movie-like run, winning 13 of 14 to close the regular season. That one loss? To the Game 1 starter tonight, Brandon Webb, and the D-backs. (Am I the only one who always looks at that "D-Backs" jersey and thinks "D-bags," as in "Douchebags"? I am? Okay.) Then the Rocks continued winning, closing out the season with two more wins and then beating San Diego in that incredible one-game playoff last Monday.
They then continued to buzzsaw right along, punching the Phillies in the mouth and taking that series in three straight. I will say, though, that Philly looked like a team that had done what they did -- spent five months trying to catch the Mets. They caught them, squeaked into the playoffs and had nothing left. Of course, one could make the same argument for the Rockies, although they didn't spend the entire season under the pressure of being expected to challenge for their division. They were kind of expected to suck, so there wasn't much pressure, and when they began winning at a ridiculous clip, people were very supportive and thought it was great. So here they are.
The D-Backs are still confusing people. They were outscored during the regular season, which almost always means you're not a very good team. But for the D-Backs this year, it has simply meant that when they win, they win 3-2 and when they lose, they lose 12-3. That sort of thing. That kind of stuff usually balances out over the course of 162 games but it hasn't this year. The D-Backs are a statistical anomaly, which is why I picked them to lose to the Cubbies in the first round. That and because I find the D-Backs and their fans boring. Boring fans, boring level of interest, boring team. And yet they keep on winning, going so far as to sweep the Cubs in the first round. They have JD Drew's less worthless brother, Stephen, they have a pitcher (Micah Owings) who hits a ton, and they were the only team in the NL to win 90 games (until Colorado reached that mark with the one-game playoff win). So they must be good. I just don't see it.
So what will happen? Will this long stretch of off-days hurt the Rockies momentum? Well, there's not really any such thing as momentum, so I don't think so. Since the Rockies have only lost one game in almost a month, and it was to this team and this guy in this park... I'll say the D-Backs win Game 1. But I think the Rockies hitting just might be enough. Obviously, this series could go either way and I really think it should be a good one. It's very, very hard to pick the Rockies to go to the World Series because it just sounds weird to say it. And it also might snow in the World Series if the games are played in Denver. But, all that being said, I don't see any reason to stop riding the Rockies surge.
Rockies in 7.
While a lot of people think that MLB and television execs wanted this one to be Yankees-Sox, this series should be a lot better. While it won't have quite the drama as New York-Boston would have on the Eastern seabord, it'll be a better matchup and it's a good thing we don't have to see more stupid footage of the Sox and Yankees battling.
The Indians put a hurting on Yankee pitching, especially their supposed stud ace, Chein-Ming Wang. The Yankees couldn't do very much at all against the Indians top two pitchers, CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. And if Fausto Carmona isn't the best smut love novel name in MLB, I don't know what is.
The Indians hit a ton but they also strike out a lot. Grady Sizemore, for example, struck out 155 times this year. That's a lot, especially for a top of the order guy. If he does that and doesn't show discipline, the Sox pitchers will eat him up.
Pronk (Travis Hafner) needs to also step up his game. This guy had a respectable year, but it was a considerable downgrade from 2006. He, Sizemore and Victor Martinez need to be the guys in this series who control the Tribe's future. They cannot rely on the likes of Casey Blake or Senor Gutierrez. And Sabathia has to be better than he was in Game 1 against the Yankees. People forget this now because the Indians blew it open, but the Yanks had closed it to 4-3 and were clearly seeing the pitches against Sabathia okay. If the Yanks could have held down the Cleveland attack for another inning or two, I think that game might have turned very differently and beating the team's ace would have meant a lot. The same applies in this series -- if the Sox beat down Sabathia, the Indians are in trouble. Cleveland needs -- needs -- Sabathia and Carmona to win games, because Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd are not going to win much. If they can get a single win from the latter two, that would be terrific. The Sox are a patient, good-hitting team that will totally feast on the junkballs Byrd throws and the mediocre stuff that Westbrook has. Trust me on this -- Sabathia and Carmona need to be sharp.
For the Sox, there is some truth to this as well. If Beckett and Schill get slapped around, the Sox are in trouble becuase if they have to rely on Fatsuzaka and Wakefield for big wins, it's gonna be a short series. Thing is, I think Beckett will win his game and I think Schill will lose at least once. I think that opens the door for the Tribe and it will kind of depend on whether or not Cleveland's second-tier starters can get the ball to the Indians excellent bullpen. Well, excellent until you get to the closer role.
As much as I want to see Cleveland win, I have serious, serious concerns (along with all of Cleveland, I imagine) about Joe Borowski as closer. What is it with Cleveland closers, anyway? Borowski, Wickman...can they get a non-fat-slob closer in there or what? Maybe David Wells is available to close for those guys next year. Damn, they all look like Lou Brown. Maybe it's the food in Cleveland. Too many trips to the Bob Evans and Steak-N-Shake.
This is another one that's really hard to pick -- and that's a good thing. It means baseball is doing well and there's a fair amount of parity, despite what people like to say.
My gut makes me think the Sox are going to pull through, and I think that's because they're a bit more of a veteran club and a team that's been there before. The guys on that team that came back from the 0-3 hole to the Yankees believe -- rightfully so -- that anything is possible and that they're never beat. If they go down 0-2 to Sabathia and Carmona, they're not going to panic (although all of New England might).
All that said, I think the Indians are a terrific team and I felt they were a World Series team back in the Spring. And why not...
Indians in 7.