Friday, August 21, 2009

WAR TIME! Big Weekend in MLB Pennant Races

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-Digger's Daily-

Approximately 40 regular season games remain in 2009 Major League Baseball. This weekend highlights key matchups which could mean rise or fall for teams fighting for the playoffs. Sweeps could make or break squads looking to secure their fate.

Yankees @ Red Sox:
Yanks swept Boston at home last week and are red hot owning MLB's best record (76-45). They'll be playing in Fenway Park this weekend. If Yanks sweep again, then AL East is a virtual lock. Yanks sending their top guns to the hill trying to finish off Boston. Red Sox are in a very tight battle to save their injury riddled season. A three game sweep by their hated rivals could put playoff hopes in jeopardy with Texas, Tampa and Chicago still fighting for wild card births.
Pitching matchups: Pettitte vs Penny, Burnett vs Tazawa, Sabathia vs Beckett (ESPN Sunday Night Baseball).
My two cents: I really like New York's pitching matchup advantages. Yanks bats are on fire and I think Friday/Saturday games are locks. Sunday's game will be on ESPN and is a great game on paper with CC vs Yanks killer Beckett. Yanks walk away with at least two wins and probably a sweep.

Giants @ Rockies:
Giants season could be on the line this weekend. They trail Colorado by two games in wild card standings and LA by 5.5 for NL West. Rockies are red hot as they inch closer to NL leading LA (3.5 behind). Colorado has won 14 of 20, SF 3 of 4. These teams have split 8 previous contests. Home field advantage favors Colorado since SF doesn't play well on the road (27-35). A sweep by Rockies will put them firmly in wild card lead.
Pitching matchups: Sanchez vs Cook, Martinez vs De La Rosa, Lincecum vs Jiminez
My two cents: I see Rockies sweeping SF. Huge advantage for Colorado in first two games on paper. Lincecum is Cy Young winner as of now in my book and will be tough to beat in Sunday's game but Jiminez is ready to go pitch for pitch as SF's lineup is one of MLB's weakest. Rockies will keep on rolling.

Cubs @ Dodgers:
Cubs are in trouble losing 10 of 14. It's all or nothing time. If they sweep LA then they have a chance to get back into the playoff race. Sweep by LA essentially kills their season. Dodgers are trying to keep hold of NL West as Colorado is hot on the trail. Chicago is baseball's most underperforming team. LA is right where most expected. Big weekend for both but losses by the Cubbies will be devasting.
Pitching matchups: Wells vs Wolf, Lilly vs Haeger, Dempster vs Billingsley
My two cents: Rotation matchups are relatively even on paper. Cubs starters have hurled fairly well. They must go deep into games or miserable bullpen is primed to hand away more games. Chicago relievers are the reason why this club is on the verge of being eliminated. Torre will have his club ready to go. LA will take 2 of 3.

Rangers @ Rays:
Perhaps the most important weekend of the Rangers season so far. Texas trails Boston by 1 and leads Tampa by 3 in wild card standings. Red Sox will have their hands full vs red hot Yanks. This is a playoff style weekend for Rangers players. Will they be ready to play? Tampa has been struggling for consistency since July. Win a few, lose a few for last years' AL World Series runner-ups. Rangers swept their only previous meeting and need to do it again. It's a pretty even matchup as both teams can hit and pitch.
Pitching matchups: Nippert Vs Kazmir, Hunter vs Garza, Feldman vs Price
My two cents: I had to look twice before typing this part. Yes, the Rangers have a decidedly better rotation matchup on paper (22-7 vs 20-20). Who would have thought it possible back in April? Tampa plays well at home (40-20). This will be playoff-like atmosphere coming from Florida's west coast. As a former Texan, I'm rooting for the Rangers... no doubt about it. Rangers will dominate as pitchers lead the way.

Marlins @ Braves:
Playoffs on the line for both NL East clubs tied with identical 64-57 records. Must win games for both clubs to stay within striking distance of first place Phils (playing lowly Mets) and wild card leading Colorado. Marlins were hot until dropping 2 of 3 in Houston. Braves 12-6 August has them believing but dropped 2 of 3 at home to Phils in beginning of the week.
Pitching matchups: Sanchez vs Vasquez, Volstad vs Hanson, Nolasco vs Lowe
My two cents: Braves strutting out their top 3 starters to drown the free swinging fish. Bobby Cox has them ready to go. Braves will take at least 2 of 3 in front of their vocal fans.

We're approaching one of my favorite times of the year in sports. Baseball's pennant fever has begun early and NFL regular season openers are just around the corner (Sept 10). This will be a fun weekend for watching ballgames.

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