Division Series previews, Oct. 6, 2012

Now that the Division Series matchups are set, let’s take a look at what to expect.

 

First, a few links to our baseball coverage over the last few days.

Here’s my Mets 2012 season obit. 

Kevin Gleason’s Mets are a tough sell column.

Yankees sluggers need to pick up the slack in the playoffs.

David Phelps could be the Yanks’ secret weapon in the playoffs.

We’ll have a position-by-position breakdown of the Yankees-Orioles series in Sunday’s paper.

 

American League Division Series

New York vs. Baltimore

Key to the series: Baltimore’s starting pitching.

The Orioles got a huge start from Joe Saunders in the Wild Card playoff win over Texas, as Saunders allowed six hits and one run over 5.2 innings. Do the Orioles have enough behind him to silence a potent Yankees lineup? Wei-Yin Chen has been pretty solid over the course of the regular season, but the rookie has never pitched in the MLB playoffs before. Playing the entire series in hitter-friendly Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium could put this O’s staff at a major disadvantage.

Baltimore Orioles' Mark Reynolds hits a three-run home run off New York Yankees starting pitcher Phil Hughes in the sixth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Player to watch: Mark Reynolds, 1B, Baltimore.

Reynolds is as streaky as they come, but he annihilated Yankees pitching during the regular season with three multi-home run games. If he gets hot this week, it could be a short series for the Yankees. However, if Reynolds cools off, he could wind up striking out plenty of times with runners on base. He’ll be the key to the O’s lineup either way.

TH-R pick: The Orioles have a great bullpen, a solid lineup and the magic of Buck Showalter on their side, but I think the Yankees find a way to outscore the O’s and a depleted pitching staff in a short series. Yankees in five.

 

Sunday: CC Sabathia vs. TBA, 6 p.m.

Monday: TBA vs. TBA, 8 p.m.

Wednesday: TBA vs. TBA, TBA

(Thursday and Friday games, if necessary, also TBA)

 

Detroit vs. Oakland 

Key to the series: Oakland’s offense.

The Yankees set a franchise record for home runs in a single season, but it was Oakland that led the AL in home runs after the all-star break, hitting 112 long balls. Other than rookie sensation Yeonis Cespedes, the A’s have a fairly no-name lineup, but they’ve done just enough to win behind a strong starting pitching staff. Will the A’s be able to keep up the hot home run hitting in pitcher-friendly stadiums in Oakland and Detroit?

Player to watch: Max Scherzer, SP, Detroit.

Scherzer is slated to start game No. 4 of this series, although he’s not yet listed on the MLB probable pitchers site. Scherzer is dealing with a shoulder injury and also twisted an ankle when the Tigers celebrated clinching the Central Division title. He’s got the talent to strike out 15 in any given game, but he can also walk a bunch of hitters if he’s off his game. What kind of start will the Tigers get from Scherzer? Will the series even go four games?

TH-R pick: Oakland has some terrific starting pitching, but Verlander-Fister-Sanchez-Scherzer is just too much for this Oakland lineup. The Tigers’ version of Moneyball – Miggy Cabrera and Prince Fielder – outlasts Oakland’s penny-pinching style. Tigers in four.

 

Saturday: Jarrod Parker vs. Justin Verlander, 6 p.m.

Sunday: Tommy Milone vs. Doug Fister, 12 p.m.

Tuesday: Anibal Sanchez vs. TBA, 9 p.m.

Wednesday: Max Scherzer vs. TBA, TBA

(Thursday’s game, if necessary, both TBA)

 

National League Division Series

Washington vs. St. Louis

Key to the series: The experience factor.

St. Louis, the defending World Series champion, has a roster full of experienced postseason players. Washington, on the other hand, hasn’t hosted playoff baseball since 1933. It might not mean all that much, since St. Louis had David Freese come out of nowhere last year. Especially with the first two games taking place in St. Louis, it could wind up being a factor somehow.

Player to watch: Chris Carpenter, SP, St. Louis.

The winning starter in game seven of last year’s World Series, Carpenter was supposed to miss the entire 2012 season with thoracic outlet syndrome, but made a surprise return in three starts at the end of the regular season. He was 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA and 16 hits allowed in 17 innings over those starts, but his surprise return just might make the difference in a short series like this. He might start game three of this series, but that’s yet to be made official.

TH-R pick: The Nats are a terrific story, no doubt, but not having Stephen Strasburg available really hurts them at this time of year. St. Louis has too much experience and the advantage of playing the first two games at home. Washington will be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come….just not this year. Cards in four.

 

Sunday: Gio Gonzalez vs. TBA, 3 p.m.

Monday: Jordan Zimmerman vs. TBA, 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday: TBA vs. TBA, TBA

(Thursday and Friday games, if necessary, also TBA)

 

San Francisco vs. Cincinnati

Key to the series: Tim Lincecum.

The Freak had a dreadful first half of the regular season, and finished 2012 with a 10-15 record and a 5.18 ERA. He was, however, much better in the second half, going 7-5 with a 3.83 ERA after the all-star break. If big-time Timmy Jim pitches like he did in the second half, he’ll be a great compliment to Matt Cain, Madison Baumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong. If not, the Giants could be in a rough spot.

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, right, celebrates with catcher Ryan Hanigan after they defeated the Chicago Cubs 10-8 in a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Player to watch: Aroldis Champan, RP, Cincinnati.

Chapman saved 38 games after becoming the closer midway through the season, but he’s extremely tough against lefties. He held lefty batters to a .108 batting average against and had 43 strikeouts in 82 plate appearances against them. San Francisco’s best hitters – Buster Posey and Hunter Pence – are both right-handed, which could negate some of Chapman’s effectiveness. Still, he held righties to a .155 batting average and struck out 79 in 194 plate appearances against righties.

TH-R pick: This might be the most intriguing matchup in the divisional round, as neither team has a huge advantage on paper. Both teams have strong starting pitching, but the Reds have a stronger lineup and one of the most dangerous weapons at this time of year in Chapman at the end of the bullpen. Cincy in five.

 

Saturday: Johnny Cueto vs. Matt Cain, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday: Bronson Arroyo vs. Madison Baumgarner, 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday: TBA vs. Mat Latos, 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: TBA vs. Homer Bailey, TBA

(Thursday’s game, if necessary, also TBA)

If you have any baseball related thoughts or ideas over the next few weeks, feel free to hit me up on Twitter: @THR_Montgomery.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for Varsity845.com and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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