10/05/13

2013 MLB Playoffs - AL Division Series: Rays vs Red Sox

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Tampa Bay Rays (92-71) vs Boston Red Sox (97-65)

Boston rebounded from AL East worst in 2012 to baseball's best record in 2013. What a difference one year and one competent manager can make. Boston is a team on a mission. Solid hitting, solid pitching, solid base runners, solid defense = 97 wins. Gutsy Tampa Bay does it all with a limited budget and fairweather fans (dead last in home attendance). Yet, this teams plays fundamental baseball behind a talented manager and strong pitching staff.

Pitching:
Boston rotation - Lester (15-8), Lackey (10-13), Buchholz (12-1) & Peavy (4-1). Tampa rotation - Moore (17-4), Price (10-8), Cobb (11-3) & Hellickson (12-10). Red Sox won season series (12-7). Rays facing a powerful top to bottom Red Sox attack. Sox feature strong starters and lights out bullpen. Edge: Boston.

Offense:
Red Sox stocked lineup will give Rays pitchers fits. Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia, Ortiz, Napoli, Gomes, Saltalamacchia, Drew & Middlebrooks form one of baseball's best lineups. Speed, power, timely hitting & playoff experience can score in bunches. Red Sox hitters will not be denied in this series.
Rays weaker lineup manages to get the job done but is no match for a slugfest -CF Jennings, 2B Zobrist, RF Myers, 3B Longoria, DH Young, LF Rodriguez, SS Escobar, 1B Loney, C Lobaton/Molina. Rays manufacture runs. Heart of the order is clutch but will have a tough time keeping up with Red Sox attack.

Prediction: Red Sox dominated in regular season. Rays clawed and scratched their way into playoffs. Red Sox are the better team. Sox in 4.

10/03/13

2013 MLB Playoffs - NL Division Series: Braves vs Dodgers

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Atlanta Braves (96-66) vs Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70)

Pitching:
Bring on the heat. Both of these NLDS pitching staffs feature flame throwers. Dodgers with Cy Young front-runner Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and relievers paced by closer Kenley Jansen. Kershaw & Greinke represent the best 1-2 punch in this year's playoffs on paper. Don't crowd the plate against Braves starters Medlen, Teheran & Minor. Fire baller closer Kimbrel saved 50 of 54 and sports a career 15.1 strikeouts per 9 innings.
Probable rotations: (LA) Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu vs (Atl) Medlen, Minor, Teheran.

Offense:
Dodgers enter the series with two big injuries. Matt Kemp is inactive. Andre Ethier will only be used as a pinch hitter in NLDS. LA's Game 1 lineup: LF Crawford, 2B Ellis, SS Ramirez, 1B Gonzalez, RF Puig, 3B Uribe, CF Schumaker, C Ellis. Dodgers offense was banged up early on in 2013. Ramirez & Kemp missed time with injuries. Puig was still playing minor league ball. Manager Don Mattingly seemed only moments away from being replaced after LA stumbled to a 30-42 record. LA caught fire when Puig joined the lineup. Their lineup was juiced once Ramirez returned. Before you knew it LA finished the year 62-28 and Mattingly went from potential firing to Manager of the Year candidate. Timely hitting & lights out pitching is their theme.
Atlanta decided to keep Uggla off of their roster ... by choice. Uggla was miserable at the dish batting an anemic .179. His defense at 2B will be sorely missed. Braves opening lineup: CF Heyward, RF J. Upton, 1B Freeman, LF Gattis, C McCann, 3B Johnson, SS Simmons, 2B Johnson = 4th highest run production in NL.

Prediction: Kershaw & Greinke are just too tough in a best of five series. Dodgers play much better defense too. Dodgers sweep.

10/02/13

NFL 2013 NFL Week 5 Predictions

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Denver & Peyton Manning are destroying every team in their path. Broncos football is 2nd to none thus far after 4 weeks of play. Next up, Cowboys (2-2) in Big D. Speaking of big... big trouble brewing for winless Giants, Steelers & Jaguars. On the flip side, joining Denver as unbeaten teams are New Orleans, Kansas City, New England & Seattle.

9 of 15 correct picks last weekend brings Digger's season total to 43-20 (68.3%). Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington bye week (home in CAPS).

Week 5

THURSDAY
BROWNS 26 Bills 14
SUNDAY
Saints 31 BEARS 17
Patriots 27 BENGALS 21
PACKERS 27 Lions 23
Chiefs 21 TITANS 10
Seahawks 33 COLTS 10
RAMS 13 Jaguars 10
Ravens 27 DOLPHINS 17
Eagles 31 GIANTS 14
Panthers 34 CARDINALS 17
Broncos 48 COWBOYS 10
49ERS 27 Texans 23
Chargers 35 RAIDERS 13
MONDAY
FALCONS 24 Jets 10

2013 MLB Playoffs - NL Division Series: Pirates vs Cardinals

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Ready, set, go. National League Division Series Playoffs begins Thursday night in St. Louis. Pittsburgh scorched the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in a one game Wild Card to advance.

2013 is Pittsburgh's first playoff appearance since 1992 and Pirates fans were ready, willing and able participants. They're boisterous energies taunted Cincinnati's starting pitcher all night. Perhaps their energy caused an ineffective Cueto to drop the baseball in between pitches? Now it's off to play the Cardinals in NLDS action.

Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)

Pitching:
Bucktober baseball opens up with A.J. Burnett who went 3-1 against the Cardinals this season taking on Adam Wainwright (1-0 in 3 starts vs Pit). Both hurlers feature knee buckling off speed stuff to compliment electric fastballs. Hitters for both teams could be in for a long night if these guys bring their A games. Bucs haven't chosen a Game 2 starter against Lance Lynn. Lirano starts Game 3 back in Pittsburgh where he's been dominant all season. Both teams employ stingy bullpens. Situational pitching will dictate the day.

Offense:
Pittsburgh is fired up. Hitters are in the zone. Lead off man Marte's hand healed and he's seeing the ball well. Neil Walker is raking. McCutcheon is MVP candidate. Morneau's due for a power surge. Byrd has been exceptional since being stolen from the Mets. 3B Alvarez is a streaky ball masher. Russell Martin crushed 2 round-trippers in the WC game. SS split of Barmes/Mercer shouldn't be taken for granted. Pirates are feeling it having won 4 straight. Big test coming up on the road against Wainwright.
Cardinals hitters have produced many thrilling playoff games in recent years. However, Mr. Clutch Allen Craig's foot injury will keep him out of NLDS action. Craig was hitting an astonishing .454 with 83 RBI in only 130 AB with runners in scoring position. Clubbing .700 with bases loaded on 7 of 10 with 20 RBI. A serious MVP candidate before injury. Probable Game 1 lineup features 55 double man Carpenter leading off followed by prime time playoff hitter Carlos Beltran (RF). LF Matt Holliday (.300) is 3rd. Allen's replacement Matt Adams at 1B slugging .505. The Cards Mr October Molina bats 5th (.373 RISP). CF Jon Jay (.351 OBA) followed by 3B Freese. Starting SS remains to be seen between Descalso and Kosma. Cards lineup is very talented, very clutch and no strangers to playoff baseball.

Prediction: Best of 5 series has all the makings of going the distance. Cards hitters possess more patience meaning they don't necessarily chase bad pitches. Cards clutch lineup feast on opposing pitchers mistakes. A deadly combination in post-season play (and for a team riding a 6 game win streak). This all goes away if Burnett's on his game but he's known to throw many pitches so fatigue factor likely comes into play. Bucs lineup is dangerous but a bit more free swinging.
NLDS destined for 5. If Liriano (3-0, 0.75 vs StL) pitches Game 5 then Bucs advance.

09/27/13

2013 A.W.A.S. Baseball Awards

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The 2013 Major League Baseball season is coming to an end. Another spectacular season soon to be etched into baseball history. It's been a season filled with high and low moments. Winners, losers, no hitters, records, pennant races, suspensions and retiring legends.

All World All Sports examined the best and worst of 2013. Time to announce our annual awards.

MVP
AL: Miguel Cabrera (Detroit). Miggy becomes the first AL player to win back to back awards since Frank Thomas (1993-94). Detroit doesn't win AL Central without his contributions.
NL: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh) I'm prediction NL MVP official voting will be the closest in history. So many deserving players. Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona), Freddie Freeman (Atlanta), Yadier Molina (STL), Matt Carpenter (STL). McCutchen gets my vote as being an essential cog in Pittsburgh first winning season & first post-season appearance since 1992.

CY YOUNG
AL: Max Scherzer (Detroit) Another very close battle with plenty of deserving candidates. However, 21-3, .970 WHIP, 6.4 H/9, 10.1 K/9 too much to overlook.
NL: Clayton Kershaw (LA) Near unanimous selection will give Kershaw his 2nd Cy Young in 3 seasons.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
AL: Wil Myers (TB)
NL: Jose Fernandez (Miami)

MANAGER OF THE YEAR
AL: Terry Francona (Cleveland)
NL: Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh)

FIREMAN OF THE YEAR
(Top Closer)
AL: Greg Holland (KC)
NL: Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta)

MAN OF THE YEAR
Mariano Rivera (NYY). Mariano Rivera pitched his final game in Yankee Stadium last night. Baseball's oldest current player (44) goes down in history as the games greatest closer, ever. He's known as one of the greatest men ever to play. Not just because of raw natural ability. He's a man's man. Religiously devoted, giving & unselfish Rivera's one of the few players liked by nearly everyone. Never a bad word ever published in a town known for unrelenting media attention. Not a dry eye in Yankee Stadium last night when Mariano was removed from the game with 2 outs in the 9th inning. Rivera wept like a child in Andy Pettitte's arms as a sold out crowd rewarded with a thunderous & never to be forgotten standing ovation.

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