American League Division Series
Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees
The Orioles pitching did just enough to get past the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card game. Their offense did the rest. The same can be said for them against their division rivals, the New York Yankees. They've been going back and forth with them all season long. There is no love lost between these two. The Orioles can match the Yankees in the run scoring department, but again they will need their starters to do just enough to keep them in the games. Joe Saunders was great against Texas and will have to be again. Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz will have to match that performance. There are so many hitters for Baltimore that can make big hits at big moments. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are at the top. So is their young phenom Manny Machado. Look for a slugfest for every game.
New York will not be taking these Orioles lightly. At least they shouldn't. Like with Baltimore, the Yankees need their starting pitching to be better than they were in the regular season. C.C. Sabathia has to be at his best and if he is it should trickle down to guys like Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes. They will get something out of Andy Pettitte, but don't expect the old Pettitte to show up. The Yankees back end of the bullpen has been solid with Rafael Soriano taking over the closer role. But if they have to go to them early, it will be rough. Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have to carry the offense. You can expect the occasional big fly from Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira, but they aren't reliable day in and day out. The Yankees depth on offense is unmatched, but they will have to slug their way to victory once again.
Orioles in 5 games
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
The Tigers season has been an eventful one. Miguel Cabrera is the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastremski did in 1967 for the Boston Red Sox. I never thought I would see it in todays game, but Cabrera has definitely established himself as the best hitter in the game today. With Prince Fielder as his protection it will be tough to pitch around Cabrera all the time. Other than those two is there anyone else in the Tigers lineup that will step up? Alex Avila certainly has to be one. He's far too talented to let his hitting woes affect him in the postseason. Austin Jackson had a great season, but must continue that now. After their ace Justin Verlander the Tigers staff must get better performances from Doug Fister and Max Scherzer. If they do the Tigers bullpen woes will be overlooked since these three can go 7+ innings. If Jose Valverde runs into any trouble, the Tigers could be looking for a quick fix at the wrong time.
The 'amazing A's' have shocked everyone except themselves. We all knew that they had some good players, but didn't expect it all to come together right away. Like with so many other great Oakland teams under GM Billy Beane it starts with their young talented pitching staff. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Brett Anderson are a big part of that. Their closer Grant Balfour has been anchoring a very talented bullpen of young arms and some retreads from other great bullpen staffs. Rookie Yoenis Cespedes is definitely the real deal after being signed in the offseason. With Josh Reddick establishing themselves in the heart of their lineup the rest of the hitters have followed suit. Oakland's pitching has carried them this far and they will need them to continue that trend for the postseason.
Athletics in 4 games
National League Division Series
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals
It kind of looks like deja vu all over for St. Louis again. They knocked out the Atlanta Braves to get to this point. Now they have to beat the team with the best record in the National League to get to the Championship Series. This time it's the Washington Nationals and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran are entrenched in the middle of their lineup. With last years postseason hero David Freese having a stellar season, there's no doubt that he will continue that trend now. Yadier Molina continues to get clutch hits for them at crucial times. His defensive skills and the way he handles a pitching staff are unmatched. When it comes to their pitching they don't have overwhelming stuff, but they do just enough. Kyle Lohse was great in the Wild Card game. Now they will need Lance Lynn to do the same. Their bullpen is deep and with Jason Motte at the end it will be tough to get any runs scored on them.
Washington has had the best record in the National League for most of the season. They will be tasked with having to defeat the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals if they want to make a deep postseason run. Their depth in the pitching department is what has made them so formidable this year. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann have been at the forefront of that. So was Stephen Strasburg, but his innings limit has put a damper on that. With Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen at the back end of their bullpen they haven't had any weak points in the staff. With phenom Bryce Harper establishing himself more and more as the season continues it will be interesting to see what he can do. Jayson Werth has been here before and should be counted on to produce. Ryan Zimmerman has been an established part of the Nationals and will make the most of this opportunity. Michael Morse is a big part of their lineup and must perform to protect the rest of the hitters.
Cardinals in 4 games
San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds
It's been quite a year for the Giants. Matt Cain has established himself as the ace of the staff. Not to knock Tim Lincecum, but Matt Cain has been a more consistent pitcher for them. They still need both of them to be up to par if they want to advance. Not to mention Madison Bumgarner as well. And if need be they have Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito too. Their bullpen hasn't been as good as in years past, but Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo have done well at the back end. Buster Posey is probably this years National League MVP. There hasn't been a lot of protection for him and yet he still does his job, whether it be behind the plate or at first base. Pablo Sandoval is back to his old tricks as 'Kung Fu Panda' and the Giants couldn't be happier. However, if San Francisco wants to make any noise they will need Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro to continue their tremendous regular season performances in the postseason. Also Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence must establish themselves as run producers at this crucial time.
Could it finally be the return of the 'Big Red Machine'? It's possible. Just before the season ended starter Home Bailey threw the 7th no-hitter of the season. Some could take it as a sign of things to come, but he will need to pitch like that in the postseason. Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos have been pitching well the entire season and they must not disappear in the postseason. Their bullpen has some weak points. Aroldis Chapman had to be slowed down to end the season and that might trouble in the postseason. The Reds strength has been in their lineup. With Joey Votto back and healthy it will do wonders to the rest of the hitters. Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce were doing just fine and must continue that trend. Todd Frazier was making a strong case for the Rookie of the Year award and won't see his playing time dwindle now. Cincinnati's chances hinge on their pitching this year, but if they can't score it will be a short trip.
Giants in 4 games