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The Carolinian MLB playoff preview

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, October 11, 2010

Updated: Monday, October 11, 2010 13:10





The 2010 regular season was anything but “regular.” You can call it the year of the no hitter (there were five by the way) or the year of the rookie if you like. Whatever baseball brought you in 2010, the month of October will bring you even more. For most fans, then end of the regular season means “wait till next year”, but for a select few it brings their teams one step closer to bringing home the ultimate prize. Let’s meet the “select few.”


The Philadelphia Phillies


Talk about a rollercoaster season. At their lowest point, the Phils were 7 games out of first and missing key players to injuries. While many teams would have panicked, the Phillies kept their composure and not only caught the Atlanta Braves, but leapfrogged the Mets and overtook the Braves to win the National League East by six games and clinch their fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs. Their record of 97-64 is easily the best in the National League, and they won their division by 6 games, which is also a league best. With a lineup that is now completely healthy, it contains so much offensive star power, it would give Cy Young himself nightmares. As if that isn’t scary enough, they have the most lethal pitching rotation in all of baseball. Anchored by Cy Young contender, Roy Halladay, Philadelphia also has Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton to complete the four man rotation in the playoffs. After finishing 20-6 in September it’s hard to imagine any team in the National League taking down the Phightin’ Phils in the post season. The Phillies will host the Reds in an exciting series.


The Cincinnati Reds


For the first time in 15 years, the Reds find themselves in the postseason. A final record of 91-71 was more than enough to beat out the Cardinals in the National League Central division. Lead by MVP candidate Joey Votto, the Reds are a team full of guys who play the game the right way. From seasoned veterans like Scott Rolen, to up-and-coming stars like Jay Bruce, Cincy has a unique mix of players and could be a team that flies under the radar. Bronson Arroyo and Edison Vasquez are a pretty dynamic one-two punch and have an outstanding closer in Francisco Cordero, who has notched 39 saves for his ballclub this year. Of all NL playoff teams these guys have the best chance at knocking off the favored Phillies. Regardless of how things end up for them in October, they certainly have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. Remember: don’t fall asleep on these guys.


The San Francisco Giants


It took them 162 games to do it but the Giants clinched the NL West. The name of the game for the Giants is pitching. Sure they have some pop in their bat with guys like Pablo Sandoval, and rookie sensation Buster Posey, but their pitching is what will carry them this postseason. With an NL best team ERA of 3.38, the Giants are capable of shutting out the best of the best. Featuring the two time defending NL Cy Young award winner, Tim Lincecum, the Giants will also run guys like Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez to the mound. The Giants will certainly be a tough customer for the Braves, who they face in the playoffs first.


The Atlanta Braves


The Braves pretty much limped through September and barely squeaked into the playoffs. In fact, they waited until the last possible day to clinch a spot. With injuries to key players such as Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, the Braves have been forced to utilize pinch hitter Brooks Conrad into an everyday player. While Conrad is neither an All-Star, nor an Atlanta sports icon, he does have two pinch hit grand slams (one of which was a game winner) and that kind of clutch ability is just what the Braves need right now. With the man-child Jason Heyward and an all around solid pitching staff starring Tim Hudson, the Braves may be down but they certainly are not out. With a 56-25 record at home they are tough to beat at Turner Field, and did I mention they are coached by Bobby Cox? Bobby has been to the playoffs a time or two in his time and may provide the Braves with the edge they need to survive this month.


The Minnesota Twins


When I talk about baseball, I almost always try to find an excuse to slip the Twins into the conversation. Well, I need no excuse here as they are the American league Central champions for the second straight year. For the past decade these guys were one of the most underrated teams in all of baseball. Part of this is because they went to the post season five times in the last ten years and won only one playoff series. But it’s a new decade and a chance for the Twinkies to reverse that trend. For Minnesota, the offense centers on the reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer. Though he may not quite have the numbers to capture another MVP title, a World Series title is certainly within his sight. Perhaps one the most key components of this team, is that of slugger Jim Thome. Not only is he known as one of the nicest guys in baseball, but he has some great playoff and World Series experience from his day in Cleveland. The biggest downer for the Twins is the fact that they will be without first baseman Justin Morneau, for at least the ALDS. Minnesota will get a chance to exact some revenge on the team who eliminated them last year, as they will host New York to open post season play.


The Texas Rangers


When you’re in Texas look behind you, ‘cause that’s where the Rangers are going to be. You may not know it, but Texas is home to more than just the Dallas Cowboys and Walker Texas Ranger. The past decade never saw the Rangers make the post season, but like the Twins, it’s a new decade and a chance to change some of their luck. Maybe your team missed the playoffs, or you’re just a casual fan wondering who to root for. Either way, the Rangers may be a team to keep your eyes on. Not only do they make for a feel good story of the year, but they feature an all-star out of Raleigh. Josh Hamilton graduated from Athens Drive high school in 1999, and though his career took a detour when he fell to drug and alcohol addiction, he’s since recovered and has a chance make all of that right with a successful playoff performance. With an unbelievable .360 batting average, Hamilton not only has a chance to win the AL MVP in 2010, but he can really make an impact on the playoffs as well. While Texas is composed of great young players such as Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler to name a few, they may be a bit overmatched when it comes time to face teams like the Yankees or Rays. Games are not won on paper, and in October baseball, anything could happen. They will head down to Florida to take on Tampa Bay.

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