Tom Verducci The Yankees' offense is just too relentless to contain and the surplus of off days assures that their pitching will never be taxed. Expect the Yankees to wear down Los Angeles with a big run differential from the seventh inning on. YANKEES IN FIVE.
Jon Heyman The Angels give the Yankees fits with their ability to run and keep pressure on. Plus, they've handled the Yankees in the postseason twice in the Mike Scioscia era. But the Yankees have the superior bullpen this time, and Alex Rodriguez appears well out of his postseason funk. YANKEES IN SEVEN.
Ted Keith CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Alex Rodriguez entered the month as postseason question marks. They have so far given emphatic answers to those questions by delivering stellar performances in the ALDS. Similar play against the Angels will all but ensure the Yankees' return to the World Series for the first time since 2003. The Angels' deep offense will keep it close, but the Yankees' offense is even deeper. That, plus home-field advantage and a bullpen fortified by the addition of Joba Chamberlain that shortens games to six innings give New York enough of an edge to slip past Los Angeles. YANKEES IN SEVEN.
Joe Posnanski Looking for a classic series. Angels are a more complete team than they have been in past years, especially offensively, and they have been a nightmare matchup for Yankees in recent years. But that Yankees lineup is so tough 1 through 9, they wear down teams. I see CC Sabathia being the difference-maker. YANKEES IN SEVEN.
Lee Jenkins Just as the Angels exorcised their demons against the Red Sox, the Yankees can exorcise theirs against the Angels. The Angels have bounced the Yankees from the postseason twice this decade, but we saw in the first round that past playoff results do not mean much. The Angels offense is as explosive as it's been since 2002 -- the last time they won the World Series -- but they are now running into the one team that's even more potent. YANKEES IN SEVEN.
Ben Reiter Angels lefty Scott Kazmir, who will likely start Game 4, usually pitches exceedingly well against the Yankees -- he's got a 2.67 ERA in 15 career appearances against them -- but none of L.A.'s other starters have had similar success. John Lackey's career ERA against the Bombers is 4.66, Jered Weaver's is 5.88 and Joe Saunders' is 6.28. That history, plus a distinct advantage in the bullpen for New York, should ensure that the Yanks will prevail in this otherwise evenly-matched series, and that they will advance past the ALCS for the first time since 2003. YANKEES IN SIX.
Joe Lemire The Yankees have decimated league opponents this year, with winning records against every team except two -- the Angels and the Red Sox -- though even against them the Yankees split each series. But despite its sweep of the Twins, New York didn't play exceptionally well, batting just .225 (without Alex Rodriguez, the average is just .198) and watching dominant-all-year setup man Phil Hughes blow his one big opportunity. The Angels, meanwhile, showed they have an unexpected bunch of professional hitters and, aside from Scott Kazmir, their pitching staff yielded just two runs in 21 innings. The Halos are better than they were in 2002 and '05, and they beat the Yankees in October those seasons, too. ANGELS IN SEVEN.
David Sabino The Yankees have rediscovered the formula that led to the dynastic years of the 1990s: Great starting pitching (including CC Sabathia for a possible three starts), a three-inning, lights-out bullpen, fundamental fielding and timely hitting. The Angels have had New York's number in the postseason and probably have the second-best team this year, but with A-Rod & Co. on a roll, they won't win more than a game or two. YANKEES IN SIX.
Cliff Corcoran The Angels represent a steep upgrade in opposition for the Yankees over the 87-win Twins, but when you break it down, the Yankees are still a markedly better ballclub. The Yankees have a vastly superior bullpen, their lineup is clearly better in all but perhaps two spots, and they have the horses in their rotation to out-pitch the Angels. They also have home-field advantage for the likely necessary Games 6 and 7. This will be a hard-fought series (the Angels have been as much of a thorn in the Yankees' side as the Red Sox have been this decade), but the better team should prevail in the end. YANKEES IN SEVEN.
Jonah Freedman Everything in my fiber tells me to pick the Yankees, who are stronger in nearly every statistical category (though the Angels aren't far behind in most). Still, Mike Scioscia knows how to get his men pumped against the Yanks, and I can't see him out-managed by Joe Girardi when it comes to manufacturing runs and taking the calculated risks. There's something about this Halos team that screams experience and desire. This will be a classic. ANGELS IN SEVEN.
Albert Chen The Yanks may look invincible, but they strut into the ALCS with still a lot of questions about their pitching. CC still has a lot to prove in the postseason, Phil Hughes didn't exactly look dominant in the LDS and Andy Pettitte struggles against the Angels (0-2, 7.88 ERA against L.A. this year). ANGELS IN SEVEN.
Melissa Segura This is the BMW vs. Mercedes series. What New York possesses in power at the plate, the Angels counter with speed on the base paths. The Angels have production at every spot in the lineup (their best ever). But getting to first base doesn't make a winner; crossing home plate does, something a resurgent Alex Rodriguez did with ease against Minnesota. Rodriguez's and Mark Teixeira's power production will be key, especially if the likes of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera struggle as they did in the Division Series. The Angels are better defensively, but a closet full of Gold Gloves is useless against the longball -- the biggest threat to Los Angeles in this series. The Angels starting pitching gets the nod from me, but the bullpen -- as we've seen in every Division Series this year -- is key. Let's see if Brian Fuentes is this round's Jonathan Papelbon. ANGELS IN SEVEN.
Tom Verducci A roller-coaster ride of a series. The Philadelphia bullpen still can't be trusted, but there is a toughness about this Phillies team that can't be discounted. They can take body blows, be they from blown leads or shutdown pitching performances, and they don't give in or change their approach. Manny Ramirez is the swing factor. He looked much better in NLDS Game 3, but he's still not a power threat. If he is, Los Angeles can win. PHILLIES IN SEVEN.
Jon Heyman The Dodgers are better than they were last year, and they're better than folks think (see the Division Series for proof of that). While the Phillies are the toughest team going and have that superb nucleus, their small starting-pitching advantage is neutralized by not being able to use Cliff Lee to start the series and their bullpen can't be considered solved just because it survived in the Division Series. DODGERS IN SEVEN.
Ted Keith The battle of the bullpens will likely decide this series, this time with a more favorable outcome for the team from the City of Angels. The Dodgers posted the best bullpen ERA in the majors, and much of that was before they added George Sherrill to act as a bridge to Jonathan Broxton. The Phillies beat the Rockies with a steady diet of left-handed pitching, but the Dodgers are actually better against lefties than righties, and ranked third in the NL in average against southpaws and first in on-base percentage. They'll advance to their first Series in 21 years to set up the most highly-anticipated World Series matchup in years: Dodgers vs. Yankees. DODGERS IN SIX.
Joe Posnanski Also a potentially great series. The defending champ Phillies had the best offense in the National League, and they were the best road team in the NL, too. But we all know that bullpen is flammable. The Dodgers bullpen looks much more secure, and I think L.A. will break Philadelphia's heart in the late innings. DODGERS IN SIX.
Lee Jenkins The Dodgers survived one round without top-shelf starting pitching, and due to the depth of their lineup and bullpen, they can do it again. Last year they tried to beat the Phillies exclusively with right-handed starters and did not fare so well. Now they have lefties Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf to deal with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. As a bonus, Dodgers hitters don't have to see the Cole Hamels of '08 and they won't have to face Cliff Lee until Game 3. DODGERS IN SIX.
Ben Reiter In the NLDS, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel smartly relied heavily on his strong and deep cadre of left-handed pitchers to propel his team past a Rockies club that struggles against southpaws. The Dodgers, though, hit lefties well (.272 during the regular season, third-best in the NL), and their pitchers held the Phillies' NL-best offense to just 25 runs during their seven regular season games, about 1.5 runs per game below their average output. If the Phillies are to repeat last season's NLCS ouster of the Dodgers, they will need their offense to perform to its usual standard, up-and-down Game 1 starter Cole Hamels to be at his best and closer Brad Lidge to avoid a meltdown that you can just sense is coming. Odds are that all of those things won't happen. DODGERS IN SIX.
Joe Lemire By ripping through the Cardinals in three games, the Dodgers showed that September baseball can be meaningless, but having a deep pitching staff and a long lineup in which every batter is a credible threat to reach baseball can mean everything. The Phillies have that same kind of lineup but question marks in the back of the bullpen and in the rotation behind Cliff Lee. If Cole Hamels regains his 2008 playoff form, this series could change quickly, but should he falter, we're looking at a Freeway Series. DODGERS IN SIX.
David Sabino The Dodgers limped into the postseason but capitalized on every opportunity to summarily dispose of a favored Cardinals squad that featured two of the game's best pitchers. Philadelphia's lineup is as strong as any in recent NL memory, but its staff, especially in the bullpen, has made opposing NL lineups look like the '27 Yankees -- a bad combination when facing a lineup with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, et al. DODGERS IN SEVEN.
Cliff Corcoran I've been betting against the Dodgers all year and you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now, but the Phillies were my preseason pick for the pennant, so it seems silly to go back on that now that they're almost there. The Phillies took this in five games last year, and could well again, but I'll give the Dodgers an extra game this year as an apology for my doubting them thus far and due to the struggles of the non-Cliff Lee Philly starters in the NLDS. PHILLIES IN SIX.
Jonah Freedman Great matchups all around the diamond, but if the Phils can't get the early jump on the Dodgers (who look closer to returning to the team that scored seven or more runs 42 times this season), they'll have to face that lockdown bullpen. And if they're nursing a late, narrow lead, your knees start to knock thinking about what the best comeback team in baseball will do to shaky Brad Lidge. Bring on the Freeway Series. DODGERS IN SIX.
Albert Chen In a long series, the difference in bullpens will be huge, and the Phillies' bullpen remains a big question mark -- an even bigger question mark with Ryan Madson's struggles against Colorado. L.A. wins because Joe Torre won't make the same mistake Jim Tracy made in the NLDS: he won't let Ryan Howard beat him by mauling right-handed pitching. DODGERS IN SIX.
Melissa Segura Phillies closer Brad Lidge is the kind of guy you love to root for, hope your daughter marries and with whom you'd love to grab a beer. But is he the guy Philly fans want closing again? Let's see. Bullpen blowups are the hallmark of the 2009 postseason thus far, and Lidge, coming off of a dismal 2009, would be voted Most Likely to Blow a Save among the LCS closer class. Philly's bullpen -- facing the likes of up-and-coming stars like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp -- will play a huge role in determining the series outcome. DODGERS IN SIX.
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