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Friday, October 4, 2013

Must See Sports - First Weekend of October 2013, Part 2

Yesterday, we discussed Thursday, Friday, and some college football. Today, we pick up with the MLB playoffs on Saturday.

Saturday, October 5

Major League Baseball

Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
David Price - Rays (10-8, 3.33 ERA) vs John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA) - Red Sox
American League Division Series - Game 2

It is hard to pick against the Tampa Bay Rays in this series. The Rays maintained a hold on the top Wild Card spot before the Cleveland Indians caught fire, took the top spot, and forced the Rays to play a 163rd game at the Texas Rangers just to make it into the American League playoffs. The Rays eliminated the Rangers and then eliminated the Indians in the American League Wild Card Game.

David Price was lights out with ice in his veins, as he had to be, in the play-in game at Texas. I doubt his adrenaline has stopped flowing. The Red Sox will have their hands very full.

As hard as it is to pick against the Rays, it is even harder to pick against the Red Sox. The team with the American League's best record withstood all challenges and did everything right. With very few weaknesses, the Red Sox spent most of the season in first place in the A.L. East. With designated hitter David Ortiz (.309, 30 HR, 103 RBI) in the lineup driving in the likes of third baseman Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 52 SB) and second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.301, 9 HR, 84 RBI), the BoSox are going to make every pitch the Rays think hard before every pitch thrown.

While I find it tough to pick against the Sox in this series, I can't pick against Price in this game. Price can be overpowering when he is at his best and he has consistently been at his best when his team needs him most, like in the playoffs. I think the Rays take home field advantage back with them to Tropicana Field. Let me emphasize that the Rays are one or two good breaks away from being able to steal this series from the Red Sox.

Advantages: Game - Rays, Series - Red Sox

Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics
Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA, 217 Ks) - Tigers vs Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67 ERA, 67 Ks, 64.0 IP) - A's 
American League Division Series - Game 2

Sonny Gray has quietly been a very impressive rookie pitcher. If he doesn't melt under the lights of the MLB postseason, I think the A's have so much power in their lineup that they can get the better of Verlander (at some point) in this pitching matchup before the Tigers' lineup gets to Gray. I don't think the A's go to Detroit for Game 3 facing elimination and I don't think Max Scherzer, the Tigers' Game 1 starter, is going to be the one to serve up a game to the host team.

Advantage: Athletics

The Rays' David Price...Davey Ice? 1

Sunday, October 6


New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)

I make no apologies for being a Who Dat. I will apologize in advance to the Who Dat Nation for picking the Bears in this game. Objective fans shouldn't want to tar an feather me too much.

Even the most dyed-in-the-wool Saints fan knows that the Saints have been historically bad at Chicago's Soldier Field and that futility has been prominent under Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. Whether it is the crisp, cool weather expected on Sunday or the thick sod slowing down the Saints' quick receivers and their passing game, there are enough hurdles in the Saints' way in Chicago.

In addition to the Bears' home field advantage, Chicago is coming off of a loss to the Detroit Lions. Good teams coming off of a loss are almost always more focused that usual in the coming week; it is the nature of pro sports. Quarterback Jay Cutler (1,010 yds., 8 TD, 3 INT, 67% comp.) is playing as well as he ever has with the Bears. The Saints defense, while very improved over 2012 in the pass rush and in forcing turnovers, is still susceptible to a strong running game, like that of the Bears with running back Matt Forte (320 yds., 3 TD, 4.6 avg.).

I'd love to be wrong, but I think this the week that my beloved Saints exit the ranks of the unbeaten.

Advantage: Bears

New England Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

This is another game in which I think the ranks of the unbeaten become slimmer. The Patriots injuries and defections in their receiving game is well documented. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is still listed as questionable, as are wide receivers Danny Amendola (10 rec., 104 yds.) and Kenbrell Thompkins (15 rec., 257 yds., 3 TD). Pats QB Tom Brady (1,014 yds., 7 TD, 2 INT, 59% comp.) showed, against the Atlanta Falcons, that he can take any guy off of the street who can comprehend the offense and make him into a productive receiver, but the Patriots receiving bargain bin is almost empty.

Meanwhile the Bengals were sucker punched in Cleveland by the Browns. Their offense was neutered and looked as ineffective as is has all year. The Patriots defense appears to have firmed up from its porous form over the last two years, but they aren't going to handcuff the Bengals, at Paul Brown Stadium, the way the Browns did in Cleveland a week ago. That lightning isn't likely to strike the Cincy twice.

Advantage: Bengals

Houston Texans (2-2) at San Frnacisco 49ers (2-2)

Both teams can ill-afford to lose this game. However, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub can personally ill-afford an "L". Schaub, who has thrown three pick-sixes this season, served up the most ill-advised duck with in the final minutes of regulation, into the flat that landed into the arms of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Next stop for Sherman: the end zone. The Texans defense had the Seahawks in check all day and had the game in the bag had the Texans been force to punt. Now Schaub may want to consider wearing a bag on his head before going out into public in H-town.

The 49ers appeared to smooth out some early season dents by utterly drilling the St. Louis Rams last week on Thursday Night Football. They appeared to rediscover the beastliness of running back Frank Gore. The Texans are going to make it hard for the 49ers to move the ball, but Matt Schaub has been making it had for the Texans to win close games. The Niners simply look more together right now and the whole nation will get to see on Sunday Night Football.

Advantage: 49ers

Fans can be harsh. 2

Major League Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA) - Cardinals vs Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02 ERA)
National League Division Series - Game 3

The Pirates have a pitching advantage in this game. They also have the home field advantage. I think they live to play another day after Sunday, regardless of the Game 2 outcome.

Advantage: Pirates

Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers
Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA) vs Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00 ERA)
National League Division Series - Game 3

Teheran is a monster and knows how to win. This series could come to a crashing end on Sunday in L.A., but I really like Teheran against Ryu in this matchup. It doesn't help Ryu that, in spite of a sub-3.00 ERA in September, his record was 1-3. Managing games against other good pitchers is key in the postseason and Ryu has had some trouble of late with that.

Advantage: Braves

Monday, October 7

Major League Baseball

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers
Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.97 ERA) - A's vs Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA, 202 Ks)
American League Division Series - Game 3

Sanchez pitching at home...that's all I need to know.

Advantage: Tigers

Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander's ex-girlfriend Kate Upton...will probably not be at the game. 3

Don't forget to vote in the fan polls! 

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