Tuesday, October 4, 2011

East needs to come up Big on Tuesday

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Only two or three games into the divisional series in both the National and American Leagues and baseball’s parity is once again ruling supreme. The game’s biggest payroll in the New York Yankees, finds itself on the ropes in a must win game today at Comerica Park or it’s another epic fail for the Bronx Bombers. Philadelphia’s 102 win season along with its fantastic four starters could only manage a split at Citizens Bank Ballpark against the wild-card Cardinals. Now the home field advantage lies with the Red Birds, as they try to take total control of the series later this afternoon. All four series hit the field on Tuesday in what should be and outstanding and unpredictable day of baseball.

The road warriors of the divisional series must be the Texas Rangers. Last year’s American League Champion won all three games at Tropicana Field to eliminate the Rays and they hope to make it five straight today. On the strength of a Mike Napoli two-run homer, the Rangers scored all four of their runs in a four-run 7th inning for a 4-3 win, taking a 2-1 series lead. They’ll now hand the ball over to Matt Harrison making his first post-season start. He did pitch a frame of relief during the 9-0 drubbing the Rangers took in game one in Arlington. He was 14-9 during the regular season with an era of 3.43 in 30 starts but that doesn’t mean anything in the post-season. The Rays turn to Jeremy Hellickson to keep their season alive. With Matt Moore he becomes the second Tampa rookie to take the hill in the series. Although this is he’s first playoff start, the right-hander does have a 2-0 loss against the Rangers on August 30th to draw from. He has also made five starts down the stretch run of the season for Tampa which could all be considered playoff games.

One of the National League Divisional Series games takes place at Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks have been able to rely on their offensive bite all season long. After dropping the two opening games of the series against the Brewers at Miller Park, the Snakes are hoping a little home cooking puts them right back into the series. But in order to accomplish that, rookie right-hander Josh Collmenter is going to have cool the Brewer bats of Ryan Braun and Price Fielder, a combined 9 for 16 in the series so far. Collmenter does have 16 scoreless innings facing Milwaukee from the regular season in July, which is why manager Kirk Gibson gave him the start today. Milwaukee turns to road-ace Shaun Marcum on the mound. The 29-year-old was 8-3 with a 2.21 era in 16 road starts this season. He did however struggle down the stretch of the season sporting a 6.66 earned run average during his final four outings. This could be the man the Diamondback hitters need to see in order to get back in the series.

On the American side the Yankees season now rest on the arm of the inconsistent A.J. Burnett. The right-hander wasn’t even suppose to pitch in this series but the rainstorm of game one changed manager Joe Girardi’s plans. Burnett has posted just a record of 11-11 this season with an earned run average of 5.15. But he did turn in three solid road starts in September going 1-0, with an era of 3.18, striking out 15 in 11 and 1/3rd innings. Burnett’s last two post-season starts however were a disaster. He gave up five runs in six innings to the Rangers in the 2010 American League Championship Series and only lasted two innings of game five of the 2009 World Series giving up six runs and losing 8-6. Lifetime he’s 2-2 in four starts at Detroit. The Tigers go with Rick Porcello, making his first post-season start to close the door on the Yankees season. The right-hander dominated the Bronx Bombers at Comerica Park in his last two starts against them in Motown. Porcello gave up just two runs over 14 innings and actually beat Burnett back on May 5th. If Porcello can continue to keep the bats of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira quiet as they’ve been, he’s chances should be good. The duo is just a combined 1 for 21 so far in the series.

The Phillies will try to use lefty Cole Hamels extensive playoff experience to help them re-take their NLDS lead over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The 2008 World Series MVP has won six post-season games over his career, while over half of his victories from the 2011 season came away from Citizens Bank Park. Hamels will probably not have to deal with Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday due to that injured right middle finger which makes it painful to even just grip a bat. Allen Craig will most likely get the start in place of Holliday. St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia did win nine games at home this past season and sparkled in September with a 3-0 record with a 2.64 era. He also allowed just one earned run in 15 innings of work this season against the Phillies, holding them to a batting average of .178 overall. Should he falter, Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa will turn to his reliable bullpen of six that should be fully rested after Sunday’s win in Philly.

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