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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Must See Sports - First Weekend of October 2013, Part 1

Last week's advantage/disadvantage record, excluding series: 4-2 
Last week's advantage/disadvantage record in series: 2-0
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record, excluding series: 53-42
2013 Advantage/Disadvantage Record (series only): 17-11-4

Last week was pretty brutal for the Hat Trick's season record in football. Fortunately my season record is independent of the sport itself. Still, there will be tons of opportunities with the MLB Playoffs kicking into full gear today!

Thursday, October 3

Major League Baseball

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
A.J. Burnett (10-11, 3.30 ERA, 209 Ks) - Pirates vs Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA, 219 Ks) - Cardinals
National League Division Series - Game 1

Without question, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been the feel-good, Cinderella story of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. The clock may be ready to strike midnight, however. The Cardinals, winners of two World Series in the previous seven years, dominated the National League Central, leading the Pirates, for most of the season. The Cardinals have been there, done that, and are build to last. Are the Pirates just happy to be playing in October?

Pittsburgh was 10-9 against St. Louis during the regular season. None of that matters, however. It comes down to five games, three of which are in St. Louis. As with all post season series, this will be decided by hot bats, clutch hitting and starting pitching. This is where the Redbirds have a big advantage. The Pirates have been winning games late with their bullpen. St. Louis has dominated with starting pitching and hot bats all year long. In addition, the Cardinals are the best in the National League batting with runners on base; the Pirates are near the bottom.

The Pirates could win this game. They could win this series. But I cannot rationalize picking against a well rested Adam Wainwright at home in a playoff game.

Advantages: Game - Cardinals, Series - Cardinals

Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves
Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA, 232 Ks) - Dodgers vs Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11 ERA) - Braves
National League Division Series - Game 1

This is a heavyweight matchup that baseball fans have looked forward to. The Dodgers were as hot of a baseball team from July through the end of the regular season as any team in the last half-century. The Braves were the most consistent team in the National League this season - six months of number of days not in first place? One (April 4).

Clayton Kershaw is the front runner for the National League Cy Young Award. As excellent as Kris Medlen has been this year, it is impossible for me to pick against Kershaw in any one game. However, Kershaw does have some Ghosts of Playoffs Past. He has a career postseason record of 0-1 with an ERA just under 6.00. Still, past is past. And with the x-factor of rookie sensation Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (.319, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 104 GP), fans in Atlanta doing the Tomahawk Chop may have to be cut off from excessively drowning their sorrows.

Advantages: Game - Dodgers, Series - Dodgers

I have every expectation that Maria Hanslovan, girlfriend of Pirates centerfielder and National League MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen (.317, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 27 SB, .911 OBS) will be there for good luck. 1

Friday, October 4

Major League Baseball

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA) - Pirates vs Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA, 197 Ks) - Cardinals
National League Division Series - Game 2

This a tough pitching matchup to call. Lance Lynn is a pitcher who can pull away after building up early momentum. Cole is more methodical and control oriented. Cole was very hot in the month of September with a 4-0 record and an ERA under 2.00. Lynn also pitched well last month. But with the strength of the Pirates' bullpen, this may be their best chance to steal one in St. Louis.

Advantage: Pirates

Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves
Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA) - Dodgers vs Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA) - Braves
National League Division Series - Game 2

This is another marquis pitching matchup. Minor lost all four of his decisions in September, but they were all hard luck losses. Unfortunately for Minor, he is going to need some luck against this loaded Dodgers lineup.

Advantage: Dodgers

Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics
Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA, 240 Ks) - Tigers vs Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA)
American League Division Series - Game 1

This is an interesting situation. The Oakland A's had the better regular season record but I think that the "eye test" dictates that the Tigers are the better team. Oakland is built to beat the teams that they are supposed to beat. But a lack of a consistent reliable leadoff hitter and/or an imposing base stealing threat could be their undoing. Oakland has great pitching and the 40-year-old Bartolo Colon is not going to be easy for the Tigers to face, but, offensively, they live and die by the longball - Brandon Moss (.256, 30 HR, 87 RBI), Josh Donaldson (.301, 24 HR, 93 RBI), Yoenis Cespedes (.240, 26 HR, 80 RBI).... Against Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers pitching staff, that is a high risk proposition.

Advantages: Game - Tigers, Series - Tigers

From floating into the country to playing for the Dodgers in October. Only in America...! 2

Saturday, October 5

NCAA Football

#4 Ohio State Buckeyes at #16 Northwestern Wildcats

Once again, THE Ohio State University is positioned to make a run for the BCS National Championship in early October. That should surprise nobody. Northwestern is not only relevant, but ranked in the Top 25. That is a pleasant surprise for fans and alumni of Northwestern.

Northwestern plays host in a game that could potentially vault them near or into the top 10. The Wildcats have been getting it done by running the ball down opponents' throats with running back Treyvon Green (404 yds., 5 TD, 7.0 avg.) and option quarterback Kain Colter (237 yds., 3 TD, 6.1 avg.). Old-school power football...that's how the Wildcats roll.

Ohio State is the exact opposite. Quarterback Kenny Guiton (664 yds., 13 TD, 2 INT, 68% comp.) is quickly emerging as an early season standout. In addition to his ability to light up the sky, he is also a credible running threat, with over 80 rushing yards in two different games this year. He's the Buckeye's backup QB. Braxton Miller returned from injury last week with four touchdown passes against Wisconsin and appears ready for the ride. Either way, the Buckeyes are in great shape under center. Their top running back, Jordan Hall (427 yds., 8 TD, 6.2 avg.), is definitely playing and may be too much for Northwestern to contain.

Advantage: Ohio State

Guiton may be Ohio State's best weapon and he'll be on the bench.
Tomorrow: Saturday MLB action and Sunday through Wednesday Must See Sports!

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