Tom Verducci In a series with runs and lead changes aplenty, New York has too many offensive weapons and too much experience in big moments for Minnesota to hold down. YANKEES IN FOUR.
Jon Heyman The Yankees seem to have the Twins' number. Credit Minnesota for a great year, but a double dose of CC should be enough for the Yanks. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Joe Posnanski With the Twins having home-field advantage and with the Yankees having all sorts of starting pitching question marks, Minnesota is finally set up to take out the Yankees. But I've been wrong about the Yankees many times before. TWINS IN FIVE.
Joe Lemire All the Yankees need are two wins from CC Sabathia and one win in a slugfest -- they did, after all, have the majors' best run-scoring offense by a wide margin. The Twins are 2-14 against New York since the start of 2009, and that lopsided margin won't change this fall. YANKEES IN FOUR.
Albert Chen The Twins aren't built for the postseason, not without a shutdown starter beyond Francisco Liriano. The Yankees offense will simply be too much for the Twinkies. YANKEES IN FOUR.
Ben Reiter Yes, the Yankees swept the Twins in last year's ALDS, but they didn't blow them out -- two of the three games could have gone either way -- and both teams are different this time around. Minnesota now has a big-market payroll (and the depth, particularly in the bullpen, that goes with that), a reborn ace in Francisco Liriano and home-field advantage, while New York suddenly has no reliable starters aside from CC Sabathia. Sabathia and the Yankees' bats will win a couple games, but not enough to prevent their run for a second straight World Series title from ending early. TWINS IN FIVE.
Cliff Corcoran If this series goes to a fifth game, the Twins will win it behind Francisco Liriano, but I'm guessing that the defending champs will win both of CC Sabathia's starts, surviving Liriano in Game 1, and will luck into another to win it before it gets that far. YANKEES IN FOUR.
Joe Sheehan The Twins' problems with lefties and their poor team range defensively do them in against a Yankees team that's been playing possum for a month. YANKEES IN FOUR.
Tim Marchman CC Sabathia is a man of many virtues, but he can't be expected to start all of his team's games the way Old Hoss Radbourn did in the 1884 "World's Series." TWINS IN FIVE.
Stephen Cannella CC Sabathia (career ERA when starting on three days rest: 1.01) will shine in Games 1 and 4. Too bad he can't pitch Games 2, 3 and 5 as well. Too many question marks in the rest of New York's rotation and middle relief to overcome the deep and balanced Twins. TWINS IN FIVE.
Ted Keith Expecting the Twins to beat the Yankees three times in five games when they haven't beaten them three times in two years is too much to ask, especially when the Yankees have baseball's best offense, plus CC Sabathia to start two games and Mariano Rivera to finish as many as is necessary. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Tom Verducci Wins from David Price to open and close the series and a running game to scratch out one in between against a relentless Texas team will ensure that Tampa Bay advances. RAYS IN FIVE.
Jon Heyman The Rays have lots of ways to win, including excellent pitching and just enough extra experience to escape what should be the closest playoff matchup of all. RAYS IN FIVE.
Joe Posnanski The Rays have the best team in the American League. They have an excellent and well-rounded offense, good starting pitching and a dominant bullpen. And with David Price, they have a legitimate, and intimidating, No. 1 starter. The Rangers had a nice year in a terrible division, but they're overmatched here. RAYS IN THREE.
Joe Lemire The Cliff Lee factor is strong -- even though he hasn't been his normal dominant self of late, he could win two games -- but the Rays are the more well-rounded and playoff-tested club. RAYS IN FIVE.
Albert Chen Tampa Bay is outstanding in run prevention, but its offense will have problems scoring runs against an underrated Texas pitching staff. RANGERS IN FIVE.
Ben Reiter Cliff Lee was 0-3 with a 4.56 ERA against the Rays this year, a club that crushes left-handed pitching. But remember back to his cool brilliance last October, and Lee has to have the advantage in his matchup against David Price, who has never started a playoff game. There isn't a game, in fact, in which the Rays' recently-shaky rotation has the clear advantage over their Rangers counterpart, and that, plus the apparent health of Josh Hamilton, should result in a Rangers win in what should be the first round's most exciting series. RANGERS IN FIVE.
Cliff Corcoran The Rangers have Cliff Lee to neutralize David Price in Games One and Five, an apparently healthy Josh Hamilton and none of their starters has been as bad as James Shields this season. Still, expect Price to come up big, one or both of the Rangers Game 3 and 4 starters to come up small and the Rays to win a thrilling Game 5 duel between Lee and Price at the Trop. RAYS IN FIVE.
Joe Sheehan The Rays are able to shut down the Rangers thanks to their ability to take away hits, and with the Rangers not walking much, their offense disappears. RAYS IN THREE.
Tim Marchman It's tempting to call the upset, as the teams are closely matched and in Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton the Rangers have arguably the two best hitters in the series as well as Cliff Lee, the best pitcher. But the Rays are the best team in the game. RAYS IN FOUR.
Stephen Cannella Is Josh Hamilton healthy? It may not matter: Tampa Bay's deep staff will hold down Texas's impatient lineup, and its speedsters will run wild on a team that has trouble throwing out base stealers. RAYS IN FOUR.
Ted Keith As long as David Price can out-pitch Cliff Lee in Game 1, the Rays can survive a James Shields outing in Game 2 and still win the series comfortably. If Price falters, the Rays will be in serious trouble. RAYS IN FOUR.
Tom Verducci In no game can the Reds possibly have the matchup of starting pitchers in their favor -- or even a draw. Philadelphia, though, is prone to inexplicable offensive funks that give Cincinnati hope. PHILLIES IN FOUR.
Jon Heyman Philadelphia has too much pitching for Cincinnati -- or maybe anyone right now. PHILLIES IN FOUR.
Joe Posnanski When the Phillies are healthy, they are about 10 to 20 games better than any other team in the National League. The Reds had a heck of a year, but they don't match up well at all with the Phillies embarrassment of riches in the rotation and in the middle of their lineup. PHILLIES IN THREE.
Joe Lemire The Phillies are the majors' hottest team, with three aces and a lineup talented enough to reach its third straight World Series. The Reds' first playoff berth since 1995 is a nice story -- but will be a short one. PHILLIES IN THREE.
Albert Chen The Phillies losing to the Reds would be the biggest upset of the first round. The only question with the Phils is this: which Brad Lidge will show up this October? PHILLIES IN THREE.
Ben Reiter Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Those might the only three names that matter in this series -- and, quite possibly, for the rest of October. The Phillies' three starters are all at the peaks of their powers ?- they were 12-1 in September ?- and even though they'll face the NL's top run-scoring offense in the Reds, the odds are good that none of them will have to pitch more than once. PHILLIES IN THREE.
Cliff Corcoran The Phillies enter the postseason as the prohibitive favorite throughout. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels plus a finally-healthy offense that scored 5.57 runs per game in September and October is too much for even the Reds, to my eye the second-best team in the NL field, to contend with. PHILLIES IN THREE.
Joe Sheehan The Phillies have the best starter, by a mile, in every game, and while the Reds get to Roy Oswalt and the bullpen one time, they can't handle Roy Halladay. PHILLIES IN FOUR.
Tim Marchman A series where the only gap greater than that between the managers is between the starting rotations. PHILLIES IN THREE.
Stephen Cannella The NL's highest-scoring offense might steal a game from Philadelphia's shaky bullpen, but the Phillies look like the perfect October team. Their rotation and lineup depth are too much for the pitching-thin Reds to overcome. PHILLIES IN FOUR.
Ted Keith Since getting Roy Oswalt from Houston and, shortly therafter, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard off the disabled list, the Phillies have been the overwhelming favorites in the NL. Nothing that happens in this series is likely to change that perception. PHILLIES IN THREE.
Tom Verducci The Giants spoil what otherwise would be an all-East Division final four. San Francisco has too many power arms for a feisty, but undermanned, Atlanta team. GIANTS IN FOUR.
Jon Heyman San Francisco's starting pitching gets the nod here. Two solid teams, but with Jonathan Sanchez pitching well, the Giants have a mighty trio of starters at the moment. GIANTS IN FIVE.
Joe Posnanski The Giants are offensively-challegned, but they are the one team in the league who -- with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez -- have a chance to match up pitchers with the Phillies. The Braves are so beat up -- no Chipper Jones, no Martin Prado -- that I can't see them making this much of a series even with the Bobby Cox emotion. GIANTS IN FOUR.
Joe Lemire These teams are moving in opposite directions -- the Giants streaking, the Braves scuffling -- and play a similar type of low-scoring baseball. But at this point of the season, the Giants hit, pitch and field better. GIANTS IN FOUR.
Albert Chen Cue the sweeping farewell music for Bobby Cox in Atlanta: San Francisco's pitchers will dominate Atlanta's weak lineup. GIANTS IN THREE.
Ben Reiter Even though Atlanta outscored San Francisco during the regular season (738 to 696, making the clubs rather easily the two worst offenses in the postseason), Braves hitters have been struggling mightily recently, and now face a group of Giants pitchers who posted an absurd 1.78 ERA -- as a staff -- in the pressure-packed month of September. TBS will be wondering what to do with its extra airtime after the NLDS consists of the minimum six games. GIANTS IN THREE.
Cliff Corcoran The Braves team that enters this season is a battered, broken shell of the team that won most of the games that earned Bobby Cox his final postseason berth. The Giants can't hit, but they can pitch, and the Braves' patchwork offense doesn't pose a major threat to the San Francisco hurlers. Expect Cox to make an early playoff exit as the Giants squeak by on the strength of their hurlers, winning the right to lose to the Phillies in the NLCS. GIANTS IN FIVE.
Joe Sheehan The Giants' tremendous pitching depth can shut down good offensive teams. The current Braves are not that, due to injury troubles. GIANTS IN FOUR.
Tim Marchman The idea of Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen and Aubrey Huff featuring in the engine of a potentially pennant-winning lineup is delightful. GIANTS IN FOUR.
Stephen Cannella San Francisco's staff (the bullpen is every bit as good as the rotation) finished the season with a historically good month. No reason to think that stinginess will end against an offense that struggled down the stretch. GIANTS IN THREE.
Ted Keith The Giants have the clearly superior pitching and the slightly superior offense, ensuring they move to the NLCS. Enjoy watching Jason Heyward, America. You'll be seeing a lot of him in the years to come. GIANTS IN FIVE.
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