Playoff Preview

Braves vs. Astros -- One of the bad parts of having a real job is not getting to do things when you want. As I write this, the Astros are already up 1-0. I would've picked the Braves going in, so I'll stick with it. Millwood is the best pitcher in this series, so he'll even things up next game. Glavine seemed to be rounding into form, and the matchup with him and Hampton in game 3 should be a beauty. Still, the key is going to be hitting. Both of these teams struggled offensively down the stretch. Today, of course, Ken Caminiti hit a three-run homer, to a chorus of "he's the key to this series." Here's a prediction: any game where someone hits a three-run homer will be won by that player's team. Frankly, I've been waiting for the Braves lack of offense to hurt them all year, but it hasn't. They seem to know how to win the games they have to, and I think they'll gut out the last two games of this series in yet another in a string of nightmarish postseason losses for the Astros.

Mets vs. Diamondbacks -- Alright, I'm a Met fan. They are the only team I really care about in any sport and they are my passion. I consider it my job here to tell you how they're going to win this series. Okay, Game One -- not a chance. I will be surprised if they score. Hell, after all the traveling they do and with an 11 PM eastern start time, I'll be surprised if they stay awake. Game Two: Showalter's mistake. He is starting Stottlemyre instead of Daal, giving the Mets an opening. Kenny Rogers will keep the ball in the park, Piazza and Ventura go deep, and the Mets head home 1-1. Game Three is the key pitching matchup, Omar Daal against the red-hot Rick Reed, coming off two brilliant efforts. The Mets steal this win late, with Benitez out-fireballing Mantei. Game Four: Showalter brings back Johnson on three, Mets have a fresh Al Leiter off a brilliant performance against the Reds. This one gets decided late, as the two aces cancel each other out. Give it to the Mets on a Mike Mantei wild pitch.

Man, that was tough writing. As a matter of fact, not fantasy, the Mets have virtually no offense left, the D-Backs took 7 of 9 during the season, and the Mets are thrilled to have survived, never the best way to go into a postseason series. Mike Pizza's teams have never won a postseason game (0-6), and Arizona is pitching Randy Friggin' Johnson. The optimism is more in my heart than my head.

Yankees vs. Rangers -- They aren't as good as last year, but they're still the Yankees and they know how to win this series, the Rangers don't. Still, you have to worry a little about the state of their pitching. In fact, their pitching is almost as soft as the Rangers. The Rangers start Aaron Sele, a mediocre Rick Helling (and Sele ain't exactly Pedro Martinez), and Esteban Loaiza???
The Yankees have relegated Clemens and Cone to games 3 and 4, but that still leaves El Duque and Pettite pitching in the Stadium, which they love. Who knows, maybe they'll repeat last year's series of pitching duels. For good measure Mariano Rivera is the big gun when it's time to close the deal.
If this was June and Jeff Zimmerman was unhittable, I'd give the Rangers a great shot. But I think the Yankees have too much class to lose this. Yanks in 4.

Indians vs. Red Sox -- Pedro Martinez's season was one of the greatest of all time. He could well get the Red Sox out to a 1-0 lead in this series. The Sox won 8 of 12 from the Tribe this year, so they have to be given a chance. And if it goes to game 5, the Indians have to face him again. The Indians went on autopilot after May, concerned mostly with getting healthy and scoring 1000 runs, unchallenged and for the most part, disinterested. Yet the fact remains that they did very poorly in showdowns with the other top teams, ultimately losing home field advantage to the Yankees. I'm going to assume they're focused on the big prize this year. Armed with one of the best top halves of the batting order of all time, they should be too much for the non-Pedro portion of the Sox staff. Let's call it Indians in 4.




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