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Audio slideshow: World Series preview and prediction

The Rangers and Giants in the World Series? Who could've predicted that in spring training? News baseball writer Mike Harrington likes Texas in six games.

Around the horn: Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays

It's all over for the Yankees, who were lucky they weren't swept in the ALCS by the Rangers and were finally put away with Friday night's 6-1 Texas victory in Game Six.  New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said it actually felt like a six-game sweep. 

Cheap plug alert: Be sure to look for Sunday's Inside Baseball column for my thoughts on Joe Girardi. And be sure to keep tuned in to the blog starting Tuesday with my reports from the World Series.  Of course, I have no idea where I will be because the NLCS is still not decided. Game Six is tonight in Philly with Roy Oswalt looking to get the Phillies even with the Giants. And if he does that, I'm thinking Philly completes the comeback.

On the managerial front, the Blue Jays are apparently close to naming Red Sox pitching coach and former Bisons pitcher John Farrell as their new manager. Great choice to work with all their young hurlers. From my dealings with Farrell as the Indians' farm director from 2001-2006, he has a keen eye for talent and how to connect with players. I always thought he had GM stock but he wanted to get back on the field and joined Terry Francona's staff in 2007, promptly winning a World Series.

Might be a chance for old friend Torey Lovullo to get a big-league job as well. You would think Farrell would consider him for the Toronto staff from their days with Cleveland.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Yanks-Phillies rematch looking very doubtful

So how are your LCS picks going? Looks like about as good as mine. You may recall I noted a few days ago that I had the Yankees and Phillies in the World Series in our preview section in March. Then in our blog poll, 74 percent of the votes went to the Yankees in the ALCS and 69 percent went to the Phillies in the NLCS.

So where do we stand? One win on each side from a Giants-Rangers World Series.

Stung by Joe Girardi's tinkering with the rotation and his refusal to use Mariano Rivera to keep games close even when his team was behind, the Yankees were a mess until CC Sabathia aced up yesterday to spark a Game Five victory. The defense is hurt by Mark Teixeira's season-ending hammy but he didn't have a hit anyway.

I like the Yankees' chances in Game Six but does anyone think they beat Cliff Lee in Game Seven? Nope. Stick a fork in the Bombers. The Rangers are going to the World Series for the first time.

The Phillies blew a golden opportunity last night to pull even and suffered a 6-5 loss that has them in a 3-1 hole and leaves the Giants a win away from the Fall Classic for the first time since 2002. This one was not lost by Roy Oswalt in a rare relief role in the ninth. It was lost in the Phillies' four-run fifth, when they took a 4-2 lead but had a runner thrown out at the plate and saw Jimmy Rollins leave men at second and third for the final out. It could have easily been a 6-2 or 7-2 game at that point, taking loads of pressure off Joe Blanton and Charlie Manuel.

Now the Phillies have to beat Tim Lincecum tonight in San Fran to stay alive. At least they have Roy Halladay on the mound. Frankly, there's a better chance the Phillies win three straight than there is for the Yankees to win the final two. The Phillies can run out Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels with the final two games at home. Each of their three studs has a loss in this series and what are the chances any of them get two? Not good.

The Phillies have to stop getting hurt by Cody Ross and Buster Posey. And they have to find some offense of their own. One big inning in four games won't get the job done.

Forget about who you picked in our poll last week. Wonder how much Vegas was offering in the spring for a Rangers-Giants World Series. Crazy stuff.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

It's time for the LCS picks: Yankees and Phillies

Go all the way back to our season preview section in March and you know how I'm going to pick both versions of the League Championship Series. I picked the World Series as a "reverse of 2009" and I'm staying with that. That means I got the Yankees over the Rangers (I'm going to say six games) and the Phillies over the Giants (I'll say in five). Here's how I see it shaping up:

ALCS: Yes, the Yankees have lots of question marks on the mound, headlined by Game Four starter A.J. Burnett and the middle relief. But CC Sabathia is an ace, Game Two starter Phil Hughes has been unbeatable in Arlington and Andy Pettitte is simply the winningest pitcher in postseason history. The offense continues to be strong and I think they'll really benefit from their quick division series win. Whereas a lot of rest isn't normally a good thing, this Yankees team has been pretty beat up all season. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner really needed some down time and should be in better shape now.

The Rangers, of course, are riding their hopes on Cliff Lee but the Yankees will only have to worry about him in Game Three. Unless it goes to Seven. That's the issue. The Yankees cannot let this one get to Game Seven, where Lee would be waiting again. It was a huge boost for the Yankees' hopes that the Rangers blew their two home games against Tampa Bay and had to go back to the Trop for Game Five. You have to love C.J. Wilson's transformation from bullpen to starter and the Rangers have feel-good stories like manager Ron Washington and veteran Michael Young but they're no match at the plate. Nor are they a match for Mariano Rivera in October.

NLCS: The only team in the NL that can approach the Phillies' big three of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels is the Giants. Will any pitching matchup in recent time have more hype than the Game One showdown of Halladay and Tim Lincecum? Must-see TV. The Phillies are on a mission to become the first NL team since the 1940s to get to the World Series three straight times. I just don't see any way they're stopped now. They've won 30 of their last 38 games and seem to be far and away the best team remaining in the postseason. I'm thinking the World Series doesn't go past five games no matter which AL team they would play.

Pretty amazing Philly lineup now that it's healthy. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard were all out for spells and that really accounted for the Braves' division lead that stretched into August. I can't really get excited about a Giants lineup featuring the likes of a journeyman like Aubrey Huff. Great closer matchup between Brad Lidge, who looks like vintage 2008 again, and Brian Wilson. I'm not expecting a lot of blown leads late.

So those are my picks. Be sure to make yours in our polls below.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Division Series impressions

Apologies for some of the silence on ye olde IP blog. That Sabres preview section took lots of time and energy but that doesn't mean we haven't been watching the Division Series and preparing for our annual pilgrimage to the World Series.

Here's a few of my thoughts in no real order:

---I stand by my March choice of Phillies over Yankees. They're both prohibitive favorites now after quick sweeps. Their pitching is all set for the LCS as they can run Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels and Sabathia/Pettitte/Hughes, respectively. Now, of course, they move to best-of-seven and you really can't go with just three starters. The Yankees have already announced today that they will in fact use A.J. Burnett in Game Four. Oh boy. They're going to be playing simulated games Tuesday and Wednesday so they don't get overly rusty. But six days off is a loooooooong time at this point.

---Poor Brooks Conrad. Has anyone had that many yips in the field in a playoff game as the Braves second baseman did last night? Even Bill Buckner only butchered one ball, not three! The Braves are sitting him out tonight in Game Four, putting Omar Infante at second and Troy Glaus at third. They had no choice.

---What's up with the Rays and Rangers? No five-game series has ever seen the road team win all five games so that's in the Rays favor for the deciding game Tuesday night in St. Pete. The Yankees have to love this series. Now Cliff Lee or David Price is out of the ALCS until Game Three and certainly can't go three times in seven games.

---The Giants need to win tonight. Forget about beating the Phillies in the NLCS if they have to use Tim Lincecum in Game Five against Atlanta. They'll be in the same spot the Rays and Rangers find themselves in.

---Why did the Reds even bother? If that was the National League's best offense, that doesn't say much for the NL. Between the Halladay no-hitter, the Hamels shutout and Jay Bruce's butcher job in the lights, it was a quick exit after 15 years out of the postseason. Dusty Baker sure goes down hard in October (think 2002 Angels and 2003 Cubs). Even the Twins played the Yankees tough for two games. But they're equally pathetic in October.

Memo to White Sox, Cardinals, Astros and even sad-sacks like the Indians, Royals and Pirates: You're not that far away in these divisions. If the Twins and Reds are the gold standard, you can jump up quick. 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

No Early Game?

I know it's a futile, pointless gesture. But I have to say, on a beautiful autumn afternoon, it's regrettable that there is no early afternoon game in the baseball playoffs. Tampa Bay at Texas at 5 p.m., the Yankees and Twins at 8:30. It's sad to know that the baseball folks have to cater to TV types who don't want to put playoff games on in the afternoon. It's not that they're running away from college football, either. Most of the good football games are at night, too.

Evidently, ratings are better at night. Still, you hate to see them miss out on a sunny autumn day, when temperatures are higher and it would be more comfortable for fans and players alike. And here's another worn-out notion: How about the young kids who are home from school on Saturday and would like to watch day games? I guess baseball has given up on the next generation. Well, at least there's a World Series game scheduled for 6 p.m. this year.

--- Jerry Sullivan

 

Eight former Bisons in MLB postseason

Cliff Lee is on the mound for Texas today in Game One of the division series at Tampa and he's one of eight former Bisons still alive in the quest for the World Series. The Bisons' Web site has a full rundown on each player's career in Buffalo but here's the full list.

Texas P Cliff Lee (2002-03, 2007)
Cincinnati IF Brandon Phillips (2002-05)
Philadelphia relief pitcher Chad Durbin (2003-04)
Philadelphia OF Ben Francisco (2005-08)
Philadelphia IF Wilson Valdez (2009) 
Tampa Bay C Kelly Shoppach (2006)

Rehab assignments only
Minnesota DH Jim Thome (1998 playoffs)
New York P CC Sabathia (2006) 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Turn back the clock to 2009

Sully says we're turning the clock back to 2008 and about to see another Rays-Phillies World Series. Totally possible. But at this point, I have no reason to waver from my prediction in our preview section in March: "2009 in reverse, Phillies over Yankees."

I'd be floored if anyone wins the National League other than the Phillies. I could totally see the Rays or Twins knocking off the Yankees (not Texas). Be sure to check out our division series preview in today's editions.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Rays-Phillies Redux

The baseball playoffs begin today. Since we're on the baseball blog, I can safely admit that I'm a lot more excited about MLB right now than anything happening in the NFL (even the Moss trade). My son is an even bigger baseball fan than me at this point. The Yankees and Giants are his favorite teams. He loves Tim Lincecum and Alex Rodriguez. So we're going to settle in on Thursday night for the Yanks and Giants games.

It would be great for the kid if the Yanks and Giants had a reprise of 1962. I think that was the Series when Tony Kubek took a bad hop off his throat and the Series ended with Willie McCovey lining out to second base. But I see a repeat of the Ray and Phillies in the World Series. I don't think the good people of the Tampa area deserve it, but the Rays are the best all-around team in the AL right now. They'll be very tough, especially if some of their offensive players who underachieved this season (Ben Zobrist, Carlos Pena) show up in October.

I can't see the Phils losing if Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels continue to pitch this way. I love the Reds. In fact, when you hear anyone say "No one saw them coming", remind them that I did pick the Reds to win the NL Central in the News last April. I think I picked the Giants, too, though I haven't checked lately.  The Reds' starting pitching simply doesn't measure up.

The Giants have great pitching, too. But they hit .197 against the Braves this year, and they have to do better to get past the Braves. I think Pablo Sandoval and Freddie Sanchez will have big series and the Giants will get past Atlanta in Bobby Cox's final postseason loss.

The Yankees should get past the Twins. I can't see a team with Carl Pavano as the No.  2 starter winning a playoff series. One of my smarter baseball emailers points out that Francisco Liriano's numbers measure up quite well to Cliff Lee's. But I still think the Yankees are better off playing Minnesota because Texas' No. 2 starter, C.J. Wilson, is much better than Pavano. I see the Rangers giving the Rays a tussle but losing in five.

--- Jerry Sullivan

 

 

 

MLB's final day: Rays in charge of AL East, potential tiebreaker chaos looms in NL

The MLB regular season winds down today (maybe -- more on that in a second) and you needed to stay up until 1:22 this morning to be fully versed on what was at stake in today's games. That's the time the Red Sox wrapped up a 7-6, 10-inning win over the Yankees in the second game of a day-nighter that stretched nine hours and featured the teams splitting 10-inning decisions.

Meanwhile, the Rays posted a 4-0 win at Kansas City. So that means the Rays and Yankees are both 95-66 heading into today's finales (the Yankees are at Boston at 1:35 on YES while the Rays are at KC at 2:10). Tampa has the tiebreaker edge so a Rays win wraps up the AL East and sends the Yankees on to Minnesota as the wildcard for the division series. The Yankees can only win the division with a victory in Boston and a Tampa loss. Dustin Moseley -- yes, Dustin Moseley -- will start for the Yankees today.

There is no one-game playoff, remember, because both teams have already qualified. In that case, Tampa's 10-8 regular-season edge is used as the tiebreaker. That's not going to be the case in the National League as we could be looking at the first three-team, two-day tiebreaker in history.

If the Padres win today at San Francisco for the third straight day and the Braves beat the Phillies, we would have three teams (Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco) tied at 91-71. So what would happen? The Padres and Giants would play for the NL West crown Monday in San Diego with the loser going to Atlanta Tuesday to determine the wildcard. Oddly enough, it might behoove the Phillies to lose today to potentially force the three-teamer and make all of their potential NL opponents run through some pitching before the division series starts.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

The final weekend

Three games to go and here's where we stand in the races that are still open:

AL East/wildcard -- The Yankees open a three-game set tonight in Boston with Andy Pettitte on the mound while the Rays continue their four-gamer in Kansas City after losing last night, 3-2. That leaves the two teams tied at 94-65. Since both are going to the postseason, there is no one-game playoff if they finish tied. Instead, the Rays' 10-8 regular-season advantage gives them the edge. The winner will play Texas in the division series, the loser opens on the road against Minnesota, clearly a tougher assignment.  The weather bears watching in Boston for tonight. There's heavy, heavy rain up the East Coast.

NL West/wildcard -- It's basically all over for the Padres after Thursday's devastating 1-0 loss to the Cubs in their home finale. Former Bison Brad Snyder touched closer Heath Bell for an RBI single in the top of the ninth and the Padres are now three games behind the Giants with three to play. And the teams meet starting tonight on the shores of McCovey Cove. San Diego is just 12-22 in its last 34 games.

So it's easy: One win and the Giants take the title for the first time since 2003. The Padres are two out of the wild card and the Braves' magic number to extend Bobby Cox's career is two. Atlanta is hosting the Phillies this weekend, so it's no easy chore.

Cy Young race -- The Mariners have shut down Felix Hernandez for the season, meaning he won't make his scheduled start Sunday. So does 13-12, 2.27 ERA register enough to the voters?

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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