- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

LOS ANGELES ANGELS (97-65) vs. BOSTON RED SOX (95-67)

Season series: Angels won 5-4

Series schedule:

Game 1: Boston (Lester) @ Los Angeles (Lackey), 9:37 p.m. Thursday

Game 2: Boston (Beckett) @ Los Angeles (Weaver), 9:37 p.m. Friday

Game 3: Los Angeles (Kazmir) @ Boston (Buchholz), Sunday (time TBD)

Game 4*: Los Angeles @ Boston, Monday (time TBD)

Game 5*:Boston @ Los Angeles, Oct. 14 (time TBD)

* if necessary

The Angels will win if: Their pitching is strong enough behind John Lackey to keep the Red Sox down, particularly in the first two games. The Angels have a long, tortured history against Boston in the playoffs, and they need to avoid traveling east with their season on the line. That means Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir and Joe Saunders must step up to match Boston’s formidable rotation.

The Red Sox will win if: Jon Lester and Josh Beckett start strong. They’re facing a deep and disruptive Angels lineup, but the Red Sox have perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the postseason, and they’ve proved they know how to beat the Angels. If they can take one of the first two games, they go back to Fenway Park with a chance to end the series, knowing they’ll have Beckett if they need him for Game 5.

Ben Goessling’s prediction: Red Sox in 4

Mark Zuckerman’s prediction: Red Sox in 5

NEW YORK YANKEES (103-59) vs. MINNESOTA TWINS (87-76)

Season series: Yankees won 7-0

Game 1: Minnesota (Duensing) @ New York (Sabathia), 6:07 p.m. Wednesday

Game 2: Minnesota (Blackburn) @ New York (Burnett), 6:07 p.m. Friday

Game 3: New York (Pettitte) @ Minnesota (TBD), Sunday (time TBD)

Game 4*: New York @ Minnesota, Monday (time TBD)

Game 5*: Minnesota @ New York, Oct. 14 (time TBD)

* if necessary

The Yankees will win if: They can stop the streaking Twins early in the series. These teams met in the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, and each time the Twins took Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. But that was with Johan Santana. These Twins don’t have a similar ace. They do have a long history against CC Sabathia from his days with the Indians - manager Ron Gardenhire would only call Sabathia “that big left-hander” - but Sabathia has a 13-8 lifetime mark against Minnesota with a 3.05 ERA, and he’ll be tough on the Twins’ lefty-heavy lineup.

The Twins will win if: They can steal a game in New York and get one more dose of Metrodome magic. Minnesota’s best chance to win this series is to get two games under the Teflon roof, where the decibel levels will be in the triple digits and Sabathia would present a familiar villain in a possible Game 4 matchup. With the Twins moving to a new ballpark after the season, emotions would be running high, and the Metrodome’s quirks have come through in October for the Twins before.

Ben Goessling’s prediction: Yankees in 4

Mark Zuckerman’s prediction: Yankees in 4

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (93-69) vs. COLORADO ROCKIES (92-70)

Season series: Phillies won 4-2

Game 1: Colorado (Jimenez) @ Philadelphia (Lee), 2:37 p.m. Wednesday

Game 2: Colorado (Cook) @ Philadelphia (Hamels), 2:37 p.m. Thursday

Game 3: Philadelphia (TBD) @ Colorado (Hammel), 9:37 p.m. Saturday

Game 4*: Philadelphia @ Colorado, Sunday (time TBD)

Game 5*: Colorado @ Philadelphia, Tuesday (time TBD)

* if necessary

The Phillies will win if: Their beleaguered bullpen can hold together. The defending champs are stacked in every other area: They’ve got a great lineup, two studs at the top of the rotation and quality arms behind them. But all that won’t mean anything if Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson/Brett Myers can’t close it out in the ninth. This has to the biggest question mark of the postseason.

The Rockies will win if: Their underrated rotation continues to pitch well. Colorado was the only team in the majors with five 10-game winners this year. Game 1 starter Ubaldo Jimenez is the best pitcher in baseball no one has heard of. Game 2 starter Aaron Cook is the veteran ace. Jorge De La Rosa was left off the NLDS roster with a groin injury, so Jason Hammel gets the nod in Game 3.

Mark Zuckerman’s prediction: Rockies in 4

Ben Goessling’s prediction: Phillies in 5

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (95-67) vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (91-71)

Season series: Cardinals won 5-2

Game 1: St. Louis (Carpenter) @ Los Angeles (Wolf), 9:37 p.m. Wednesday

Game 2: St. Louis (Wainwright) @ Los Angeles (Kershaw), 6:07 p.m. Thursday

Game 3: Los Angeles (Padilla) @ St. Louis (Pineiro), 6:07 p.m. Saturday

Game 4*: Los Angeles @ St. Louis, Sunday (time TBD)

Game 5*: St. Louis @ Los Angeles, Tuesday (time TBD)

The Dodgers will win if: One of their four starters turns in a dominant effort while the others hold their own before turning the game over to the best bullpen in the NL. Los Angeles doesn’t have a true ace, but Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are capable of pitching like one. At the least, all of the rotation members need to churn out six quality innings. The Dodgers also need Manny Ramirez to rebound from his September slump.

The Cardinals will win if: The four big guys take charge and own this series. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright were the best 1-2 pitching punch in the majors this season, and Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday were the best 1-2 offensive punch. All of those guys will need to shine, though, because the rest of St. Louis’ roster isn’t as talented as the rest of the postseason bunch.

Mark Zuckerman’s prediction: Dodgers in 5

Ben Goessling’s prediction: Cardinals in 5

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