Let's take a look at how I see the first round panning out:
BREWERS VS. PHILLIES:
Before the postseason started, I said I was going to pick the Phillies to come out of the National League. However, I think they are going to have their hands full with this Brewers team. I am not a big Cole Hamels guy. Actually, I think he is going to get outpitched badly in Game One by Yovani Gallardo. Unfortunately for the Brewers, their bullpen is only slightly better than the Mets', so a great effort by him could go for naught since Gallardo can probably only give you six innings. If the Brewers somehow steal Game One with CC Sabathia going in Game Two, Philly's bats are going to be real tight. Sabathia has had his struggles in the postseason and at some point, this short rest thing is going to catch up to him. My guess it happens early on in Game Two in the form of a Ryan Howard moon shot. Plus the Phils have Mr. 41-for-41, Brad Lidge, closing games for them while the Brewers will be running out either Eric Gagne or the human gas can Salomon Torres. Somehow, someway, the Phillies will get it done. Bottom line is they are better.
PHILLIES in FOUR
DODGERS VS. CUBS:
Logic tells you that the Cubs should advance. Their lineup is stacked and are one of the few teams that can go three-deep in their rotation. Everything tells me to pick the Cubs here, but I am not so sure. I question whether or not Carlos Zambrano is healthy. Plus Rich Harden is always a pitch away from blowing up. And I do not trust Kerry Wood in a big spot. On the other hand, few pitchers finished the year the way Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley did. Add that in with the fact that Manny Ramirez is one of the few players in the league that can single-handedly carry a team on his back, especially in the playoffs. Sorry Cubs fans, your misery lingers. I am going with the upset.
DODGERS in FIVE
RED SOX VS. ANGELS:
This series is simple to figure out. It is great starting pitching against a great lineup. The big question is, can Los Angeles' starters do enough to slow down the potent offense of the Red Sox? That has not been the case the last two times these teams have meet in the playoffs, and Boston has come out on the winning end both times. As good as its pitching is, Los Angeles is going to have to hit at some point in this series. Outside of the big two (Guerrero, Teixeira), though, I don't see the Angels being able to do enough at the plate. I am not sure how Beckett's injury is going to affect the Sox. It would be a huge blow if he is not able to go. As good as K- Rod was this season, I just have a feeling that Boston is going to get to him at some point this series. The Angels may be the best team from top-to-bottom in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they are running into a Red Sox team that just knows how to get it done in October.
RED SOX in FOUR
WHITE SOX VS. RAYS:
If the Rays had drawn the Twins here I probably would have went with Minnesota. Chicago, though, is the perfect first round opponent for Joe Maddon's upstarts. First of all, the White Sox are gassed. Secondly, teams that rely that much on the home run rarely get the job done in the postseason. The young Rays may be overwhelmed by everything, but playoff-tested veterans like Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske will keep the B.J. Uptons, Evan Longorias, and Scott Kazmirs in check. It will be interesting to see how Maddon uses phenom David Price, who some say could have a Francisco Rodriguez- in-2002 impact. Either way, despite probably not having any sort of a home field advantage, the Rays will not have a problem here. Hope they enjoy it, because they will get steamrolled in the ALCS.
RAYS IN THREE