Major-league baseball postseason preview

Five players to watch

LF Matt Holliday, Cardinals

With all the attention on stopping Albert Pujols, he should continue to get plenty of opportunities. It worked that way in the regular season as he hit .353 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 63 games after being acquired from Oakland.

C Victor Martinez, Red Sox

With teams running at will on Jason Varitek, Martinez is expected to get the bulk of the work behind the plate. That should be at least a slight improvement, but teams are going to test him.

LF Manny Ramirez, Dodgers

Which Manny will show up? He has been pretty much a nonfactor in the second half, hitting only .255 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs since the All-Star break, and hasn't homered since Sept. 18.

3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

A-Rod tends to be the center of attention anyway, but his track record of failure in the postseason (one RBI in his past 16 postseason games) only makes the spotlight brighter. He said last week he was ready for it, but it's easier to say than do.

SS Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

Former college teammate of Rays star Evan Longoria rebounded to become the key hitter in the Rockies lineup (55 RBIs since the All-Star break) and a team leader, but he can put too much pressure on himself, which can be a problem.

Five questions to ponder

Who is going to close for the Phillies?

That's the big question in Philly as Brad Lidge — who was so dominant last year against the Rays and everyone else — has been in a brutal funk, blowing 11 saves. Ryan Madson may be the choice, but they'll have to consider everyone from Pedro Martinez to rookie J.A. Happ.

What's the state of Boston's starting pitching?

A little shaky. Jon Lester appears to be okay after a scare when he was hit by a line drive, but there are questions about Josh Beckett, questions about Clay Buchholz and plenty of questions about Daisuke Matsuzaka.

How good are the Yankees?

Very, very good. They have plenty of offense, they play pretty good defense, their bullpen has been pretty solid and they're having more fun than you typically see in pinstripes as they do it. The only question is their starting pitching, and it should be deep enough (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett) — at least for the first round. A fourth starter may be a problem if they advance.

Can the Rockies keep rolling?

The loss of LHP Jorge De La Rosa is big, but the Rockies' stunning success has been a team effort, all keyed to the May 29 hiring of Jim Tracy to replace Clint Hurdle. They were 18-28 at the time, 74-42 since.

Are those really the Angels being offensive?

Uncharacteristically, it is. The Angels scored 883 runs, more than all teams but the Yankees, with 10 players with 50-plus RBIs and 10 with 100 or more hits. The addition of Bobby Abreu and emergence of Kendry Morales have been key.

Ranking the field

1. Yankees

2. Angels

3. Red Sox

4. Cardinals

5. Phillies

6. Dodgers

7. Rockies

8. Twins

Five interesting numbers

0 Runs allowed by Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, above, in 25 postseason innings

4 Phillies with 30 or more homers (Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley)

7.56 September ERA of St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin, with three blown saves

12 of 13 Times the Red Sox have beaten the Angels in postseason series

14 Consecutive appearances in the postseason by Dodgers manager Joe Torre

Three decisions you're going to hear a lot about

1 The Phillies starting Cliff Lee in Game 1 instead of Cole Hamels.

2 The Yankees pairing C Jose Molina with RHP A.J. Burnett in Game 3 rather than starter Jorge Posada.

3 The Rockies naming ex-Ray Jason Hammel to start Game 3 rather than All-Star Jason Marquis.

Ex-Rays report

The current Rays went home, but there are former Rays all over the postseason:

LHP Scott Kazmir, Angels

LHP Trever Miller, Cards

INF Julio Lugo, Cards

RHP Tyler Walker, Phillies

INF Miguel Cairo, Phillies

INF Nick Green, Red Sox

OF Rocco Baldelli, Red Sox

OF Joey Gathright, Red Sox

LHP Joe Beimel, Rockies

RHP Jason Hammel, Rockies

RHP Chad Gaudin, Yankees

INF Eric Hinske, Yankees

OF Delmon Young, Twins

INF Brendan Harris, Twins

Local yokels

The Tampa Bay area, though, is not too heavily represented:

INF Chone Figgins, Angels

1B Casey Kotchman, Red Sox

OF Denard Span, Twins

MGR Tony La Russa, Cards

Predictions

Yankees over Twins in 4

Angels over Red Sox in 5

Phillies over Rockies in 4

Cardinals over Dodgers in 5

Major-league baseball postseason preview 10/07/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 12:01am]

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