And then there were four.
This MLB post-season has been filled with dramatics as all four ALDS and NLDS series came down to game five. Those left standing are the Yankees and Tigers from the American League, and the Giants and defending World Series champs, the Cardinals.
In the American League match-up, we find the only Triple Crown winner since Boston’s beloved Carl Yastrzemski, Miguel Cabrera, and last year’s MVP and Cy Young award-winner Justin Verlander represent the Tigers. For the Yankees, second base sensation Robinson Cano and dominant ace CC Sabathia lead the charge for the evil empire.
If the Yankees are to make it to the World Series, they are going to have to do what they’ve been best at all year: hitting home runs. The Bronx Bombers have hit a whopping 245 long balls this year, which can be much accredited to that generous short-porch and “wind tunnel” that is the new Yankee Stadium right field.
Along with that short porch is an abundance of left handed hitters who all have the power to send that ball into that big gust of air. Among those left-handers is Curtis Granderson, who alone impressively hit 43 of his own home runs, second in the MLB. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Ichiro, Jason Nix, and the man who is the only player in post-season history to hit three homeruns in the ninth inning or later in one postseason, Raul Ibanez, have also put forth impressive performances for the Yankees.
Though the power numbers are there for the Yankees, those bats haven’t shown up in the playoffs up until this point. After their five run explosion in the ninth inning of game one, the Yankees have only scored nine runs in games two through five.
Hopefully (or not so hopefully) the power outage stops or the Yankees will find themselves watching the Fall Classic from their couches.
The Detroit Tigers on the other-hand looked poised to make the World Series since they lost four games to one to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.
Offensively, the Tigers picked up the most coveted free agent of this past off season in Prince Fielder. Prince has made the transition to American league better than anybody in recent memory by hitting .313, with 30 homeruns and 108 RBI. He would be getting all the attention on the team if it wasn’t for MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera who this year had a hall of fame line of a .330 AVG, 44 HR, and 139 RBI.
Surrounding the deadly one-two combination are playmakers such as leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, who has had a break out year with 103 runs scored. Others such as Delmon Young, Johnny Peralta, and Brennan Boesch provide a solid supporting cast to make the Tigers dangerous.
On the mound, Detroit may be tops in the majors at having pitchers with dominant “stuff”.
The group of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez lead the American League in starting rotation ERA this year.
Also, all of those four mentioned are in the top seven for ERA in the American League this season; Something you almost never see from one team.
Along with fireball closer Jose Valverde, it will be tough for the Yankees to match up with the AL central Division Champions.
Over on the National League side, we find the last two teams to win the World Series battling it out for the rights to get back.
Last year, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in seven games to win their second world series in six years.
The year before that the Giants also defeated the Texas Rangers, making it their first series win in the city of San Francisco.
With St. Louis looking to repeat, and San Francisco looking to capture two in three years, this will no doubt be a grind it out series that will most likely go seven games.
For the Giants, their undeniable leader is their 25-year-old catcher, and NL MVP candidate Buster Posey.
Posey posted an impressive average of .336, which led all of major league baseball. He was also only the fourth catcher in the modern era to lead the league in batting.
Alongside Posey is popular third baseman Pablo Sandoval aka Kung-Fu Panda. Although injuries limited him to only 108 games, he is always a threat to have a big game and put a spark in the Giants sub-par batting lineup.
Over the season, the Giants have picked up important pieces such as shortstop Marco Scutaro and Outfielder Hunter Pence who is now with his third team in as many seasons.
Pence adds power and defense while Scutaro has a solid glove and a veteran bat.
Just like 2010 when they won it all, pitching has been the key for the Giants.
Although Tim Lincecum has had a disastrous year, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and veteran Barry Zito have picked up the pieces around their former CY Young winner.
Cain was dominant this year going 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA. His has taken over the ace position for this team and will continue to throughout the postseason.
Sergio Romo has also emerged as a promising closer for the Giants and pitched well in the NLDS.
The defending world champs lost arguably the best player in baseball, and possibly in the last twenty years.
With Albert Pujols gone, the Cards have found a way to fill his gap at first base and make it to the NLCS as Albert watches from his couch.
Players such as Carlos Beltran, Matt Holiday, and David Freese lead an explosive lineup with power and speed.
Catcher Yadier Molina has had a career year at the plate. Normally known for his defense, Molina posed a .315 batting average with 22 home runs and 76 RBI.
On the mound for the Cards are starters Adam Wainright, Chris Carpenter, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Lohse.
Lynn was an 18 game winner, and Lohse has been impressive this season with a sub-three ERA and 16 wins. Wainright and Carpenter represent the experience on the staff.
Lastly, closer Jason Motte has been dominant again this year as he has the past few seasons.
This postseason has already been exciting enough, and it will continue to be with these match-ups.
Who will be the one to win it all? We’ll just have to watch and see who gets to bull-rush the mound, spray champagne, and hoist the most coveted prize in the sport of baseball.