Will the Cubbies win for the first time in 99 years? Can the Phillies get a World Series crown AND lose for the 10,000 time in one season? How did the Rockies get in and the Padres manage to screw it up? All we know is is that there are no atheists in October amongst baseball fans…Alex Ferguson previews the NLDSNATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES PREVIEW
CHICAGO CUBS VS ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
While the NL Central-winning Cubs are trying to get rid of their 99 year itch, the Arizona Diamondbacks want to relive the 2001 season, when they won the World Series in one of the most dramatic final games baseball has ever seen.
In Brandon Webb, the Diamondbacks have got a potential matchwinner. Webb was dominant in the late part of the year, winning 10 out of 12 of his last decisions and winning 18 games overall with a 3.01 ERA. Livian Hernandez and Doug Davis aren’t bad either but can they stand up to a firey Chicago offense?
As for the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano’s form flitted in between the sublime and ridiculous, and was outperformed by new recruit Ted Lilly (15-8, 3.83 ERA).
As for closers, the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster is excellent (28 saves in 31 opportunities), while Jose Valverde (47 in 54) isn’t too shabby.
If there’s one thing that the Cubs do have, it’s hitters. Alfonso Soriano, Derreck Lee and Aramis Ramirez lead the line. All have hit over 20 homers this season, and they are starting to get on a tear, hitting 45 long balls in September alone.
The Diamondbacks, by contrast, pale into comparison on that front, with no-one hitting over .300, with outfielder and emotional leader Eric Byrnes high-scoring with just 83 RBIs. Byrnes also has 50 stolen bases to his name on a team that’s built on doing the small things well rather than simply hammering the long-ball.
The Diamondbacks have home field advantage all the way through the playoffs…..the D-Backs own a 4-2 record against the Cubs…..The Cubs haven’t won a World Series in 99 years.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES VS COLORADO ROCKIES
The Phillies had to win 13 out of their last 17 games and rely on a Mets collapse to lift the NL East title, while the Rockies won the NL Wild Card by beating the San Diego Padres 9-8 in a playoff game that lasted 13 innings.
Both teams boast excellent hitting line-ups, with the Rockies ranking first or second in almost every offensive category apart from home runs. Having said that, Coors Field – and Philly’s Citizens Bank Park – are both great hitting ballparks, and expect the ball to go into the cheering crowds plenty of times.
Watch out for possible MVPs Matt Holliday (Rockies) and Ryan Howard (Phillies), as well Chase Utley (Phillies), Todd Helton (Rockies), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) and rookie star Tony Tulowitzki (Rockies), all of whom have been proven playmakers this season.
With the line-ups facing them, we’re not expecting wonderful things from the pitching. Jeff Francis had 17 victories in an oft-injured rotation for the Rockies, which was mid-ranked in all major pitching categories. The Phillies 4.73 ERA was also one of the National League’s worst, and pitchers gave up nearly 200 home runs – the second most in the NL. The Phillies will welcome back starter Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.39 ERA) – although don’t expect a whole lot from anyone.
The Rockies have a 4-3 regular season record against the Cubs….Phillies hitting ranked second in home runs in the National League…..