NL Division Series capsules
D'backs' hopes rest on Webb; Phillies, Rox slug it out
Posted: Tuesday October 2, 2007 12:14PM; Updated: Tuesday October 2, 2007 4:24PM
First the Red Sox broke an 86-year drought in 2004. Then the White Sox (88 years) finally earned a championship. And then the Cardinals (24 years) won their first title in almost a quarter of a century. Who's next? The possibilities are numerous. Half the teams in this baseball postseason have an entire generation -- or two, or three -- of fans who have been waiting to see their team win a World Series: the Rockies (their entire 14-year history), Phillies (27 years), Indians (59 years) and, most infamously of all, the Cubs (99 years).
The quest begins this week with the Division Series, which are previewed below. For one of the eight teams, whether it's been 99 years or three years, this postseason promises to be one worth waiting for.
Click here for my AL Division Series previews.
Arizona vs. Chicago
The Cubs won with the longball down the stretch. They smashed 45 home runs in September. Good luck, though, trying to lift the ball off Arizona ace Brandon Webb. He has allowed only three homers in his past 12 starts, including none to the past 108 batters he's faced. Webb matches up well against Chicago (4-1, 2.53 for his career) because the Cubs don't have nearly enough good left-handed hitters to challenge him.
The Cubs must find ways to win the three games not started by Webb. That's not as difficult as it may sound, given that they get to see Livan Hernandez (34 homers allowed and a career-worst 1.595 WHIP), Doug Davis (.804 OPS vs. RH) and Micah Owings, who, though a rookie, may loom as their biggest non-Webb challenge.
Key player: Alfonso Soriano, Cubs. He's a famously streaky hitter who heated up down the stretch. But he's also a .233 career postseason hitter with a poor .623 OPS.
Bottom line: The Diamondbacks have Webb, but just not enough offense to get through the Cubs. Chicago in five.
Philadelphia vs. Colorado
Here are two clubs loaded with players who have waited a long time to play in the postseason, and when they get there, what will they find? Maybe not the baseball. These two teams get the networks-don't-care-about-them-Houston-Astros-memorial starting times of 3 p.m. in the first two games. Good luck with the shadows, guys. Ask Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio how much fun they had with those starting times. This should be a high-scoring series, but the conditions, and Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels, may have something to say about that.
In any case, it should be entertaining -- maybe even the most exciting baseball of any playoff series. Both teams have been playing postseason-quality baseball for three weeks under great pressure, the Phillies on a 16-6 run and the Rockies on a historic 14-1 run. Colorado can do almost nothing wrong these days, and even when it does, it turns up roses; the Rockies won the wild card when Matt Holliday scored the winning run without touching home plate. Go figure.
Colorado does have one edge with its superior defense, probably the best in the game.
Key player: J.C. Romero, Philadelphia. The left-hander pitched in 20 of the Phillies' final 26 games without allowing a run. He's been lights out against righties (.198) as well as lefties (.208). He gave up just four hits in all of September.
Bottom line: Great series. Think of the 1980 NLCS (Phillies over Astros), only with more runs. It might come down to the last turn at bat in the last game, which the Phillies have. Philadelphia in five.