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Wide-Ranging MLB playoff predictions sure to brighten your Milwauk-tober

By Matt Johnson in Sports

Playoff baseball is once again in full swing.  And I love it.  Although these playoffs are full of the usual assortment of surprises and excitement, the wonderful Wild Card chaos at the end of the regular season added a little gusto to the MLB as it heads into its final stages this year.  The last day of the season demonstrated once again that anything can happen in baseball, and with that in mind, here are my bold and beautiful picks for who will be playing deep into October:

AL Pennant Winner: Rangers

Texas’ ALDS win against the Rays is what really caught my attention and forced me to give this ballclub respect.  I really doubted the Rangers’ ability to handle a team that finished 17-10 in September and rattled off a 6 wins in the final seven games of the season to roar into the playoffs.  After the Rays’ 9-0 win in ALDS Game 1, I really believed that Tampa was on an unstoppable hot streak, that they would sweep the Rangers, and that they had a very good chance of winning the World Series.  However, the Rangers stopped the Rays right in their tracks in Game 2 behind clutch performances from second baseman Ian Kinsler and red-hot catcher Mike Napoli.

I knew Ron Washington’s club had a potent offense—they had the highest regular season batting average in the majors at .283 and the third-highest run production.  With mashers like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Napoli, and Adrian Beltre (whose three homers in ALDS Game 4 carried Texas to their series-clinching win), you never know who will bring out his hittin’ shoes on any given night.

What I am now convinced of is that they have the pitching to compete with at least the other American League teams.  Starters Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison all gave up 2 earned runs or fewer in their ALDS starts, and with Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, and Neftali Feliz in the bullpen the Rangers have the arms they need to close out games.

The bottom line is that I don’t think the Yankees or Tigers would have been able to stop a team as hot as the Rays, but the Rangers neutralized Tampa’s threats and proved that they should be the favorite to win the AL Pennant.

NL Pennant Winner: Brewers

I really should go with my gut on this one, but I just can’t do it.  Plus, I said I would be bold, right?  The Phillies sure look as unstoppable as ever right now.  Back in the middle of the season when I watched the Red Sox destroy the Mariners at Fenway Park, the Sox and Phillies were far and away the best teams in baseball.  However, when the Red Sox faltered, the Phillies had the pitching to stay strong, and the acquisition of Hunter Pence solidified their offense.

Here’s where I surprise you.  Despite the Phillies’ strength across the board, I’m going to go against the experts and pick Milwaukee to win the NL Pennant.  This Brewers team has impressed me for a while, and it is hitting its stride at the right time.  Ever since the middle of September I’ve noticed a fire in that team and their fans that no other club seems to have.

The key to the Brew Crew is their offense: if it stays hot as it has been lately and the dynamic duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder keep up their run production, Milwaukee has the ability to shell even the Phillies’ starters.  If Nyjer Morgan and Rickie Weeks can support the sluggers, this team becomes even more dangerous.  A team slugging percentage of .425—fifth in the majors—exhibits that the Brewers can hit for power, which they will need to do in order to outlast Philadelphia.

The key, however, will be third starting pitcher Shaun Marcum.  First and second starters Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke can match up well enough against the Phillies' top starters, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but in a seven-game playoff series a third starter is crucial.  Marcum was horrible against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, giving up seven earned runs in 4.2 innings.  If he can shake off this start and hold the Phillies to three runs or less, he will give his offense a great chance to outhit the Phils.

Miller Park will be rocking, and if the Brewers can take advantage of their home field and get one game on the road, they just might be able to pull this off.

There are my picks, bold and beautiful as ever.  Let the debate begin!

(Stay tuned for my World Series picks, coming soon!)

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