Tom Verducci This series has the look of the Mets-Astros 1986 NLCS. The Mets knew Houston ace Mike Scott was waiting for them in Game 7, putting enormous pressure on them to get the job done in six. Scott beat the Mets 1-0 and 3-1 in Games 1 and 4. Cliff Lee will get Game 3 and 7 (unless manager Ron Washington moves him up on short rest to pitch Game 6; Lee has never thrown on short rest). That makes C.J. Wilson the key to this series. The Texas left-hander gets two of the first five games. He must pitch well in both. YANKEES IN SIX.
Jon Heyman The Yankees will have their hands full here, as the Rangers have speed, power and Cliff Lee going for them. But the Rangers will have to use some pitchers beyond Lee and C.J. Wilson, another tough lefty, and the Yankees' offense is relentless. The Yankees' rotation is in good shape except for the obviously distracted A.J. Burnett, and it never hurts to have Mariano Rivera, either. YANKEES IN SEVEN.
Joe Posnanski Cliff Lee could have been a game-changer here. But because the Rangers pitched him nine inning in Game 5 on Tuesday, they go from underdog to serious underdog. The Yankees' starting pitching after CC Sabathia is still suspect, but the lineup is so relentless and Mariano Rivera is still there to close out the ninth -- it's still a great playoff recipe. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Joe Lemire What rotation problem? The Yankees' trio of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes turned in three wins and three quality starts -- the worst of which came from Sabathia, which won't happen again -- and received ample offensive backing. New York ought to finish this before the vaunted Cliff Lee can make a second start. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Albert Chen Expect an epic series to be decided by baserunning (this season Texas players were eight-for-eight in stolen bases against the Yankees, who threw out just 15 percent of baserunners), defense (the Rangers have the edge here as well), and, of course, Cliff Lee. RANGERS IN SEVEN.
Ben Reiter Joe Girardi still won't admit that he preferred to win the wild card, and not the AL East, thus avoiding Cliff Lee and the Rangers in the ALDS. Things have worked out better than he hoped. Lee won't be available until Game 3 of the ALCS, and Girardi's Yankees will probably see him only once. YANKEES IN SIX.
Cliff Corcoran The Rays did their division rivals a huge favor by forcing a fifth game in the ALDS and making the Rangers burn Cliff Lee. That changed the complexion of this series, and Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes' strong ALDS starts against the Twins changed the complexion of the Yankees' postseason. With their offense clicking, don't be surprised to see the Yankees wrap this up in five games but six is more likely. YANKEES IN SIX.
Joe Sheehan The patience and strike-zone judgment that wore down the Twins' pitching staff in the Division Series will do the same to every Rangers pitcher not about to be a zillionaire.. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Tim Marchman The Rangers have a lot of small edges: a slightly sturdier rotation, a deeper bullpen, a tighter defense, home field advantage. It probably isn't enough to make up for the difference in the lineups. YANKEES IN SIX.
Stephen Cannella Texas has Cliff Lee on the mound in Game 3 and gets to tee off on A.J. Burnett in Game 4. Other than that the matchups favor the Yankees, who won't let the runnin' Rangers take advantage of them the way the Rays did. The series will go back to Texas for a Game 6, but the ride will end there for the Rangers. YANKEES IN SIX.
Ted Keith The Rangers have never won a postseason game at home. If they fail to take one of the first two in Texas, they'll never get another chance at that breakthrough win in Game 6, especially if Josh Hamilton and Michael Young don't start hitting. The Yankees' constellation of All-Stars in the lineup and on the mound makes this an easy win for New York. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Tom Verducci San Francisco beat a depleted Atlanta team by the margin of three misplayed groundballs -- one that Braves third baseman Omar Infante didn't get in Game 1, one that second baseman Brooks Conrad missed in Game 3 and one that Alex Gonzalez didn't make a play on in Game 4. The Giants will try to work the same magic against Philadelphia: keep the game close with their pitching and seize on a small opening. The key to this series is whether the Philadelphia hitters make Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez come into the strike zone. They get most of their strikeouts on pitches that are not strikes. Look for a very tight series, with the Philadelphia getting the edge for grinding out more quality at-bats. PHILLIES IN FIVE.
Jon Heyman Both teams have superb starting pitching, but the Phillies have more weapons offensively, are better defensively and possess the rare toughness and postseason pedigree to win. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Joe Posnanski Great pitching all around, the Tim Linecum-Roy Halladay matchup in Game 1 is about as exciting as it gets. And following that with Jonathan Sanchez against Roy Oswalt and Matt Cain against Cole Hamels ... it should be fun to watch. The Phillies, though, have a much better lineup than the Giants do and are better equipped to put up the necessary runs. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Joe Lemire It's a near-even matchup of starting pitching, even if the Giants' rotation behind Tim Lincecum (Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner) isn't as celebrated as the Phillies' staff after Roy Halladay (Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and maybe Joe Blanton). But San Francisco's offense is streaky at best and has little margin for error, while the Phillies' big bats will help them prevail in this one. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Albert Chen The series is more evenly matched than most think: after Halladay-Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez matches up well against the Phillies, and Matt Cain is terrific at AT&T Park, where he'll start Game 3. Philly's superior lineup will be the difference in a very close series. PHILLIES IN SEVEN.
Ben Reiter Pitching-wise, it's strength against strength. Hitting-wise, it's strength (the Phillies') against weakness (the Giants'). That should give Philadelphia a slim advantage in each of these games and a trip to their third straight World Series. PHILLIES IN FOUR.
Cliff Corcoran Yes, both teams have great pitching, but only the Phillies can hit. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Giants shut out multiple times in this series, which could also wrap up in fewer than six games. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Joe Sheehan The Phillies have struggled at the plate just enough to create some doubt about the inevitability of a World Series rematch. The Giants aren't exactly great at scoring runs either, but they can go deep from eight lineup spots, making them dangerous in every inning. They'll run into some long balls to push the series back to Philly before succumbing. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Tim Marchman Impressive as the Giants' pitching is, a team whose best hitter is Aubrey Huff will need absolutely perfect pitching against Roy Halladay and co. They may get it; it just doesn't seem likely. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Stephen Cannella Fingernails on both coasts will take a beating -- these two rotations will make for games that are low-scoring and close. San Francisco's bullpen should give it an edge, but after seeing the Phillies handcuff the high-powered Reds lineup, it's hard to imagine the Giants scoring enough runs to win four games. PHILLIES IN SEVEN.
Ted Keith The Giants were the beneficiaries of some sloppy Braves defense in the Division Series. They won't get the same breaks against the Phillies in this round. Don't be surprised to see Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz (.345 lifetime in NLCS play) out-hit highly-touted Giants rookie backstop Buster Posey. That kind of offensive depth will be the difference that lets Philadelphia become the first team since the Cardinals of 1942-44 to win three straight National League pennants. PHILLIES IN SIX.
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