Baseball's Final Four ready to get going

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After 4,860 regular season games and 15 postseason contests, Major League Baseball's version of the Final Four is set to get underway on Friday in Arlington.

And shockingly, the two teams I thought would be fighting it out come World Series time are still alive, and the smart money is on them to facing off on October 27 when the Fall Classic starts.

More on that later, though.

Actually, it is pretty impressive that I still have my World Series picks alive when you consider how awful my other picks were. Don't believe me? Well my two Manager of the Year choices were both fired mid-season. Let's leave it at that.

Anyway, the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees get the League Championship Series party started on Friday with a pitching matchup that could have been so much better had the boys from Arlington taken care of business at home.

Instead, it will be the very underrated C.J. Wilson going against CC Sabathia in Game 1 because the Rangers needed all five games to win their ALDS matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays, thus keeping the great Cliff Lee on the bench until Game 3.

C.J. Wilson had a great year in his first year as a starter.
Wilson had a great year in his first year as a starter, but Texas would have been so much better served with Lee on the hill. He is becoming a postseason legend. People are talking about him in such high regard that if I didn't know better I would have thought he single-handedly rescued those Chilean miners.

With Wilson and Colby Lewis going in the first two games, Texas will be lucky to get a split. That task becomes even more daunting when you consider that the Rangers have never won a postseason game at home and that they have lost nine straight playoff games overall to the Yankees.

Should they get the split, though, Lee going in Game 3 serves the same purpose as if had he pitched Game 1. He will still give the Rangers a chance to take control of the series in a pivotal game. Plus he would be in line on full rest to start a potential seventh game.

Unfortunately for Texas, though, I don't think that is going to happen. I think the Yanks go back to the Bronx up, 2-0. Wilson and Lewis walk way too many batters for my liking and that is not a good formula for beating a very patient Yankees lineup that pounces when given the opportunity.

Sabathia was awful in the ALDS. I suspect he will be better against the hard- hitting Rangers, who desperately need a big series from Josh Hamilton. Hamilton insists his ribs are fine, but he looked terrible at the plate against the Rays. If he does not hit, the Rangers will not beat the Yankees.

I think Sabathia wins Game 1. And if that does happen Lewis is not the guy I want on the hill to save the Rangers' season. I think the Yankees will hit him hard early and we will see plenty of long-man Derek Holland in that one. Plus, Phil Hughes has been terrific in his two starts in Texas.

Like I love to say, trends are trends for a reason.

Lee will beat the Yanks in Game 3 and the Yanks will lose A.J. Burnett's start in Game 4, but will head back to Texas with a 3-2 lead. I expect Sabathia to take care of business in Game 6, because everyone is well aware who would be staring them down should this series go seven games.

Now onto the National League, where we are going to be treated to perhaps the best pitching matchup in postseason play in some time on Saturday, when Philadelphia's Roy Halladay takes the hill against the Giants' Tim Lincecum.

Halladay, of course, pitched a no-hitter in his postseason debut, while Lincecum tossed a two-hit shutout and struck out 14 in his maiden voyage into the postseason. Some people argued - wrongly by the way - that Lincecum's performance was actually better than Halladay's no-no.

I can see why people would argue for Lincecum, but no-hitters for the most part are freak occurrences. If they were that easy, Roger Clemens or Pedro Martinez would have 10 of them. Everything needs to break the right way a majority of the time. Lincecum's outing against the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS was probably better than 80-percent of no-hitters that are thrown, but Halladay's falls in the other 20 percent.

Halladay could have pitched 15 innings last Wednesday and the Reds were not going to get a hit off of him. That's how good he was.

Lincecum/Halladay is going to be a great matchup, but it is a wash. Too hard to predict. I think Halladay will probably win. The crowd that Lincecum is going to see on Saturday will be unlike anything he has ever seen. I am not sure how he is going to handle that. I am not sure how I am going to handle it, to be honest, and I will just be sitting there.

The real story in this series is going to come in Game 2. The Phils will send Roy Oswalt to the hill against Jonathan Sanchez. Oswalt was the worst of the three-headed Phillies monster atop their rotation and Sanchez has been the Giants' best pitcher for over a month now. Plus, he has done very well in his career against the Phillies.

If the Giants find a way to get this series even when they head back to San Fran, we could have a good one on our hands.

The pitching is going to be sensational in this series, but the Phillies are going to hit just a tad more and pull it out. Great analysis, huh? But, it is that simple.

I thought the Phillies were the best team at the start of the year and even after their offense went into hiding for about two months and the team fell several games behind in the NL East, I still thought they were the best team in the league.

The Major League Baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint my friends.


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