By Jake McCormick
The MLB is resurrecting their own versions of the 90s rap battles between the East and West Coast. Both the National League and American League Championship Series feature matchups between teams roughly 3,000 miles away from each other. And from the storylines and talent on each team, the rest of the postseason will give similar career/entertainment boosts as a result.
Two things are for sure when the Los Angeles Angels take on the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers face Philadelphia Phillies: Both series will go more than four games and both will feature some instant classic playoff moments. Although it would be hard to top Jonathan Papelbon’s implosion over the last two innings of the Red Sox-Angels series. There’s not much that pleases me more as a baseball fan than watching cocky closers get worked like a new army recruit.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies
This matchup screams Rocky II, and for once not in the way that benefits Philadelphia. Both teams played at this stage a year ago, only Philadelphia had the home field advantage. The Dodgers have come back a year stronger and more hungry, whereas the Phillies look just as good, but have lost a few key steps along the way.
The Phillies and Dodgers have strong rotations, but each has one cold spot that could easily be exploited if either team gets on a roll. Cliff Lee has so far looked like CC Sabathia was supposed to for the Brewers last year, giving up two earned runs in 16.1 innings. Game 1 starter Cole Hamels is supposed to be the team’s ace, but he struggled in his NLDS start and will be facing a right-handed heavy Dodger lineup.
The Dodgers somehow stopped the Philadelphia hit parade during the regular season, as the team only hit .214 in seven games. The Phillie left handers will need to find a way to get past Dodger south paws Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf, who both rank tops in the league in opponent OPS. They also have the best bullpen in the National League, including lefty late-inning specialist George Sherrill.
The key to this series will be the back end of both teams’ bullpens. Brad Lidge has a stat line that only Eric Gagne would’ve been able to rival, had he stayed the Brewers’ closer throughout all of 2008. Both of these teams can hit late in games, so the matchup between Lidge vs. Mr. Clutch Andre Ethier or Jonathan Broxton vs. Ryan Howard will show its face at least one time apiece. Consider this a grudge match of the best of the NL, and the Dodgers will take the series in the same number of games they played against the Phillies in 2009.
Verdict: Dodgers in seven
Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees
The regular season 5-5 split record between these two teams sums up how evenly matched the ALCS will be. The Angels and Yankees finished one and two, respectively, during the regular season in runs scored, and played as well as any team in baseball over the last month of the season. There’s no doubt this is the Tupac vs. Notorious B.I.G. of the East/West MLB feud, minus the ending, of course.
The Yankees have decided to go with CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte for the rest of the series. Instead of performing like an overused 30 GB iPod, Sabathia is a refurbished 80 GB in his first playoff bid as a Yankee. The regular late season use will come in handy considering he was 0-2 with above a 6.00 ERA against Los Angeles. Do I even need to mention Mariano Rivera, considering he is the Delivery Man of the Year?
The Angels have also set their rotation with John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Jerad Weaver, and Scott Kazmir. Lackey has the most playoff experience, and he and Weaver pulled 7.1 innings against an always tough Red Sox team. Closer Brian Fuentes was a question mark heading into the postseason, but he seemed to have found a groove against Boston, allowing no hits and only one baserunner on a walk in two saves.
Both of these teams convincingly swept their opponents in the divisional series, and are as ready as ever to face off for the American League pennant. Bobby Abreu and Mark Teixeira get their chances, in a way, to Brett Favre their former teams in at least four games. Alex Rodriguez suddenly has the playoff confidence of David Eckstein, Aaron Boone, and Craig Counsell all wrapped into one. The series will be close any way you slice it, but in the end New York will find itself in the World Series for the first time since 2001.
Verdict: Yankees in six.
If my predictions prove correct, it would be a Dodger-Yankee World Series; the best of each league. That would pit Joe Torre against his former team, which would be the ultimate Brett Favre moment of the MLB season, except the revenge game would mean a little more in the long run.