BY MIKE WOLVERTON SPORTS GUY Knowing Phillies fans as I do, 97% of you assume the Phils will just waltz past Cincinnati. You’d imagine the mighty Phillies have the better lineup, but do they? The Reds finished first in the National League in batting average, by a wide margin (the Phillies ranked 5th). The Redlegs led the NL in home runs too, with the Phillies 5th again. They’ve got six guys who hit 18 or more dongs. And the Reds scored more runs than the Phillies, so you can’t assume the Phils have the better offense. The edge comes, of course with the starting pitching, where the Phillies have an unmatched top 3 of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt. Cincinnati can’t come close to equaling that, but they do have the crafty Bronson Arroyo, who can shut down any opponent on the right day. And if the games stay close, you don’t even have to know who is in the Reds bullpen to know that they are better than Philadelphia’s relievers. But it just so happens that Cincy boasts flamethrowing rookie Aroldis Chapman (remember the bidding war for the Cuban last offseason?). Chapman has hit an astounding 104 MPH on the radar gun since joining the Reds in late August. The Phillies better hope their starting pitching is as good as advertised, because there is no other phase of the game where they have a clear edge on Cincinnati.
Prediction: Phillies in 5
Two years ago I tried to predict the entire postseason before the first round…and correctly nailed six of seven series, including the Phillies over Tampa in the World Series. Last year…well, if it weren’t for Matt Holliday, I’m sure I would have been right on it again. Back for year three, here’s how I see it playing out:
Giants over Braves, 5 games. San Fran finished strong and Atlanta did not, but those trends don’t always continue in baseball (heading into the 2006 playoffs, eventual champ St. Louis was the coldest team of the bunch). Still, I like the Giants pitching.
Yankees over Twins, 4 games. It’s one thing holding off the likes of the White Sox without Justin Morneau. Beating the Yankees is another.
Rangers over Rays, 5 games. Something seems off to me about the AL East champs. And I’m not talking about their attendance figures.
Yankees over Rangers, 7 games. Something will break down on the Rangers at this point…Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, or most likely the starting pitching.
Phillies over Giants, 5 games. San Fran runs out of steam after spending the last month duking it out for the NL West crown. The Giants starting pitching is strong, and they have the advantage in the bullpen. But if your best offensive player is Aubrey Huff, you are no match for the Phillies.
Phillies over Yankees, 6 games. Sabathia to win one, the Phillies bullpen to blow one, but the Fightins will get their revenge for last year’s loss. Note, this is not a homer pick…I’m an Astros fan!