MLB Playoff Predictions: Redemption For The Rays

With the start of the 2010 postseason just hours away, the excitement and anticipation that comes along with October baseball is in full swing. This is the time that fans and players alike have been looking forward to since the beginning of spring training some seven months ago. The grueling 162 game schedule has crushed the ambitions of all but eight teams. These eight have proven to be the best of the best, overcoming a variety of adversities to keep their hopes of a World Championship alive. Now, the stakes are raised and the competition moves to another level. With very little margin for error, each team will need to be poised and productive under pressure in order to avoid an early exit. Eleven wins can elevate any one of these teams to greatness and place them in the history books forever, but it is much easier said than done.

Way back in April, there was serious reason to believe that the Cardinals would challenge the N.L. dominant Phillies and possibly even make a run at the World Series. Obviously, that will not happen as St. Louis fell apart down the stretch, allowing the Reds to take the division. As disappointed as Redbird fans may be right now, the Cards still have an extremely talented team and they will be one of the best teams in the National League for many years to come if they can keep the core of their current team intact. October baseball rivals any other time of the year in all of sports and whether your team is playing or not, it is still well worth watching.

With this year’s match-ups set, take a look at my predictions.

NLDS: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds

It’s not all the time that you see a match-up between two teams as dangerous as the Phils and Reds in the first round, but that’s how it’s playing out since the Braves won the wild card. The Reds edged the Cardinals to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1995, but the Phillies are confident that they will cruise to their third World Series in three years.

My Prediction: The excitement in Cincinnati comes to an abrupt end and Philadelphia’s dominant pitching trio of Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt silence Joey Votto and the Reds offense. The Reds don’t have enough pitching to pull off an upset and this will be a three game sweep for the Phils.

NLDS: San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves

The Giants overcame an impressive season by the Padres to take the N.L. West on the final day of the season, while the Braves saw their division lead evaporate thanks to the Phillies. These two are going in different directions, but they still manage to collide in the first round of the playoffs.

My Prediction: San Francisco’s momentum carries them right through to the next round with a four game series victory. Their consistent pitching and timely hitting is too much for Bobby Cox and the struggling Braves.

ALDS: New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins

The Yankees allowed the Rays to beat them out for the A.L. East division crown, but that may work out better in the long run. Minnesota is without all-star first baseman Justin Morneau and the Yanks are stacked with talent as usual. The Twins were the first team to clinch a playoff spot this year and Target Field will get its first ever October baseball.

My Prediction: The Twinkies simply don’t have the offense or pitching to beat the Yanks, who will take the series in four games. All in all, a solid season for the young Twins with lots of potential.

ALDS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

The Rays won more games than any other American League team this year to take their second division title in three years. Meanwhile, the Rangers are in the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. They acquired Cliff Lee for this exact time of year, but all-star outfielder Josh Hamilton is not at 100 percent with injured ribs. To me, this is the most interesting divisional series.

My Prediction: The competition of playing in arguably the toughest division in baseball pays off for the Rays in a back and forth five game series. Cliff Lee and David Price duel it out in a lefty showdown and extra innings are needed in a game or two, but Tampa’s effectiveness in all phases of the game is the difference.

NLCS: Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants

My Prediction: In a series dominated by the pitching of five aces, the lack of run support for Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain finally catches up with San Fran. The ability of the Phillies to get on base and score runs early in games through Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino prevents the Giants from relying on their dominant bullpen to win. After another sweep, Philadelphia heads into the World Series unbeaten in the postseason.

ALCS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees

My Prediction: The Rays and Yankees battled it out during the regular season with some very close games and the trend continues in the playoffs. The two best lefthanders in baseball (David Price and C.C. Sabathia) put on a show, but the Rays take down the Yanks in seven games. The Yanks struggle to hit away from home and A.J. Burnett shows that he cannot be trusted as the number three starter in New York. Andy Pettitte’s age and injury problems catch up with him and the Yankees rely too heavily on Sabathia and Cano. Finally getting some fan support, the Rays get another shot at the World Series.

World Series: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays

My Prediction: Yes, a rematch of the 2008 World Series. And yes, the outcome is different. Call me crazy, but the Rays defeat the Phils in six games to win their first ever World Series. This comes just before their window of opportunity closes and they can’t afford to keep all of their current players. The Phillies take this series for granted, especially with home field advantage, and Joe Madden proves to everyone that he is one of the best managers in baseball today. The Rays solid pitching slows down the high powered Philadelphia offense, but their superior defense and base running is really what makes the difference.  Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria shine in the spotlight while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley struggle to hit for power. The Rays show that they have learned from their experience in 2008 and are rewarded with the trophy, stunning all Phillies fans in the process.

Tags: 2010 MLB Playoffs A.J. Burnett Andy Pettitte Bobby Cox Carl Crawford CC Sabathia Championship Series Chase Utley Cliff Lee Cole Hamels David Price Divisional Series Evan Longoria Jimmy Rollins Joe Madden Joey Votto Josh Hamilton Justin Morneau Matt Cain Minnesota Twins Robinson Cano Roy Halladay Roy Oswalt Ryan Howard Shane Victorino Tim Lincecum World Series

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