With a handful of regular-season games remaining, baseball's post-season is drawing near. The likely matchups...ALDS: Los Angeles Angels vs. Boston Red Sox.
I think LA will have the home-field advantage in the 5-game series, and both teams have had time to line up their starting rotation and rest some key position players. The Sox are trying to get Mike Lowell (right hip) back into the lineup without surgery, and JD Drew (lower back) was in the lineup last night, although he looked a little rusty and was replaced after 2 ABs. Vlad Guerrero (right knee), Chone Figgins (elbow), Juan Rivera (hip), Howie Kendrick (hamstrings), and Joe Saunders (kidney stones) have all returned to Angels games over the past week.
My pick: Boston in 5 games. ALDS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Chicago White Sox or Minnesota Twins.
The White Sox and Twins started the playoffs early, and Chicago has dropped 2 in a row in Minneapolis, pulling the Twinkies to within ½ game. Tonight, Gavin Floyd (16-8, 3.84) takes the mound for the Sox against Kevin Slowey (12-11, 3.85). Chicago finishes the season over the weekend with 3 at home against Cleveland, and Minnesota hosts Kansas City. At this point, I'm picking the Twins to take the division by a game. Jermaine Dye "tweaked" his left calf last weekend, and has gone 0-for-8 against the Twins in the 2 games. Carlos Quentin (wrist) is listed as day-to-day, but probably won't be able to hit until after the regular season is over.
Tampa got B.J. Upton back, but Carl Crawford (finger) is not being penciled in for the first playoff series. Troy Percival (back) had an epidural shot but hasn't pitched in almost a week.
My pick: Tampa over Minnesota in 3 games. NLDS: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets or Milwaukee Brewers or Philadelphia Phillies.
The Cubs are finishing the season with 7 games against the two teams they could face in the Division Series. They've won 2-of-3 at Shea Stadium and play a fourth tonight, then travel to Milwaukee for 3 games over the weekend. The Cubs clinched their division a while ago, but they don't appear to have taken their foot off the pedal over much, going 13-9 in September.
New York finishes the season with 3 games at home against Florida, so if they can get a win out of Pedro Martinez tonight, the Brewers are probably up a creek. Dale Sveum is rumored to be starting C.C. Sabathia (10-2, 1.78, in 16 GS for MIL) on short rest tonight against Pittsburgh.
Philadelphia has a 1½-game lead on the Mets in the NL East, and dropped 2-out-of-3 to Atlanta. They take tonight off to gather their thoughts and then finish the season at home against Washington, who are fighting with Seattle to avoid being the worst team in the majors. The Phils have gone 14-8 in September thus far, so it would require a disastrous collapse for them to get swept by Florida.
My pick: Chicago over New York in 4. NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia or New York.
The Dodgers have clinched a tie for the Division, but with 1 more game against San Diego and then 3 against San Francisco, I don't see them flopping so badly. Arizona has lost 2-of-3 to St. Louis, with a 4th tonight, then hosts Colorado.
My pick: Philadelphia over Los Angeles in 5.
Boston has a rough road, but I see a Red Sox-Cubs World Series.