October Baseball

October baseball.

 

It just sounds right, doesn’t it?

 

Even before we start on the magical road through the postseason, Alexei Ramirez and the Chicago White Sox started the celebration on the penultimate day of September. Tied with Detroit in a game that they needed to win, the White Sox got an early holiday gift from Gary Glover in the bottom of the 6th inning on Monday. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Ramirez slammed Glover’s offering.

 

Literally.

 

Celebrating his game changing swat in the middle of his swing, Ramirez lifted the White Sox and the nearly full U.S. Cellular Field crowd into another must-win situation. Chicago went on to beat Detroit 8-2, which set up a Tuesday elimination game against Minnesota for the American League Central crown.

 

After they shake out the Central on Tuesday, the fun begins in earnest on Wednesday. Complete with amateur predictions, here’s a quick look at the all of the division series.

 

Regardless of who wins the A.L. Central, the Tampa Bay Rays look like Jake & Elwood from “The Blues Brothers.” They’re on a mission from God…or at least Don Zimmer. You can already hear the Tim Kurkjian essay on the impossible dream of perennial loser morphing into one of baseball’s best stories in the last decade. The Rays are winners – at least in 2008. Using a lineup that plays baseball like the Anaheim Angels in the early part of the decade, Tampa relies on a different hero every night. So far, so good. Tampa should take the opening round series in four games.

 

The other series in the American League will knock one of the favorites out in the first round. The defending World Champion Red Sox from Boston will start on the road in Los Angeles. Without postseason ace Josh Beckett in his best form, Boston will need to rely on its offensive fireworks if they want to get past L.A. The Angels have the advantage in the series with defense and pitching – especially with Francisco Rodriguez in the bullpen. Expect the Angels to win a tight series in five games.

 

The most intriguing opening round series in the playoffs starts on Wednesday night in Chicago. The other team from L.A. visits Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs. Picking up Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake near the trade deadline, the Dodgers finally found a consistent offense in the nick of time. Combining an interesting collection of “oldies but goodies,” don’t be surprised if the Dodgers squeak past the Cubs in the NLDS. Then again, don’t be shocked if the Dodger bullpen (especially in middle relief) can’t hold a lead. Chicago’s pitching looks better on paper and I’ll go with the Cubs in five games.

 

In the most unpredictable LDS, Milwaukee takes on Philadelphia. Few expect the winner of this opening round series to last past the NLCS. Look for Milwaukee’s power to outslug the questionable Phillies offense. Philadelphia needs to step up in the postseason. This team lost three consecutive games last year in the NLDS to Colorado and must forget about that debacle if they want to beat the Brewers and advance into the NLCS. I’ll take Milwaukee in four.

 

The playoffs start on Wednesday afternoon in Philadelphia. Expect to see sacrifice bunts, multiple pitching changes and other moments that take your breath away.

 

After all, it is October.

 

Finally.  

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