American League Championship Series
New York Yankees (AL East) vs. Detroit Tigers (AL Central)
Pat: Tigers in six.
Matt: Yankees in six.
Pat’s reasoning: My biggest question for the Yankees going into the League Divisional Series was which C.C. Sabathia would show up to lead the pitching staff. Answer received loud and clear: 2-0 in two starts with a 1.53 Earned Run Average. Oh, by the way, that was over 17.2 innings. Sabathia was one out of two complete game victories.
Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes followed C.C.’s lead and pitched well enough in their respective outings. Now their reward is to face a very potent Tigers’ offense that boasts the best bat in the American League during the regular year. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hitting third and fourth for Jim Leyland is lethal, but the production can come from anywhere in the Detroit order. If you look at Detroit’s 6-0 clinching win over the Oakland A’s, it was as much to do with the bottom third of the order getting on base, as it was the top of the card. It could be a long night for Yankee pitching if Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante can set the table for the top of the order.
For the Yankees, several key offensive contributors need to be better if they are going to advance. It goes way beyond Alex Rodriguez’s struggles this postseason. Robinson Cano hit .313 in the regular season, but batted .091 for the ALDS, including 0-4 with two strikeouts in Game Five. Curtis Granderson led Joe Girardi’s ballclub with 106 RBIs in the regular season, but has collected just one through five playoff games this year. Hit a solo home run in the 3-1 win over Baltimore. Through the first four games of the ALDS the center fielder was hitting .063 with 9 strikeouts.
Also, Nick Swisher went 0-3 with two strikeouts in Game Five on Friday. The number that jumped out to me way 11: the number of pitches the right fielder saw in his three at bats.
National League Championship Series
San Francisco Giants (NL West) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (NL Wild Card)
Matt: Cardinals in six.
Pat: Giants in five.
Matt’s reasoning: The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off one of the most improbable comebacks in playoff history, beating the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS after trailing by six runs. Whether you believe in momentum or not, the Cards have a few things going for them, including a healthy pitching staff. Chris Carpenter, who missed most of the season with an arm injury, pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his lone start against the Nationals. The addition of Carpenter to an already strong staff with Adam Wainwright, 16-3 Kyle Lohse and 18-game winner Lance Lynn will make for tough competition for a light-hitting Giants lineup.
The Cardinals were also the N.L.'s second best hitting team during the regular season. They flashed their offensive firepower against a very strong Nationals pitching staff by scoring 29 runs in their three wins in the NLDS. The middle of St. Louis' lineup especially with Carlos Beltran, Allan Craig, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina is a clear advantage for the Red Birds.
On San Francisco's side, their two star players Matt Cain and Buster Posey give them a chance in any series. While Cain didn't pitch his best against the Reds, he finished the season 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA. The Giants also have one of the stronger bullpens in the league with six relievers sporting sub-3.00 ERAs.
The key number for the Giants: 6 1/3. The number of innings Tim Lincecum pitched against the Reds while giving up just one run. If Lincecum pitches like his old Cy Young self, the Giants have a chance.