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THE PAYOFF PITCH ...
ALBERT CHEN
March 26, 2012
BEST CASE
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March 26, 2012

The Payoff Pitch ...

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BEST CASE

They cruise to a 100-win season with a juggernaut offense and a formidable rotation that gets quality innings from Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes. Mariano Rivera gets the last out to clinch title number 28.

WORST CASE

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Rivera show their age. Michael Pineda struggles in the AL East and no rotation complement to CC Sabathia emerges. The Yanks win 90—but fall short of the postseason.

BEST CASE

Joe Maddon's magic keeps working. The team's outstanding run prevention—a durable, flexible rotation and the best defense in baseball—leads the Rays to their second World Series in five years.

WORST CASE

The pitching staff's run of good health ends. New sluggers Carlos Peña and Luke Scott don't hit, and the lineup around Evan Longoria has too many holes for Tampa to reach a third straight postseason.

BEST CASE

What collapse? Josh Beckett and Jon Lester have Cy Young--caliber seasons, and Carl Crawford returns to All-Star form. In his first season Bobby Valentine leads the Red Sox to a World Series win.

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