Tuesday's MLB Playoff Previews

REDS AND TIGERS TRY TO FINISH OFF SWEEPS IN FAST MOVING MLB DIVISIONAL ROUND

Have you football fans even had a chance to watch any of the San Francisco-Cincinnati and Detroit-Oakland matchups? Both series were played Saturday and Sunday in the teeth of very busy football schedules. Both could end as early as TODAY because the Reds and Tigers jumped out to 2-0 starts in their respective best-of-five postseason openers.

We alerted you several weeks ago that the bulk of our Fall coverage here in the NOTEBOOK would be football related. We're hot and heavy with the bases through the summer months (and thanks again to all of you who read so religiously in June, July, and August!). Football is KING in sports handicapping, which means that it gets top priority once the gridiron wars begin. But, here in October, we will be devoting Tuesdays and Wednesdays to the baseball playoffs here on these pages.

In short:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: MLB Previews, news, and notes
Thursday through Mondays: Stat previews of marquee TV matchups in NFL and college action

Let's pick up today with a look at what's happened so far in the two series in action Tuesday, followed by a look at the pitching matchups in these potential season enders for the teams from the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO AT CINCINNATI (Game 3)
5:37 p.m. ET on TBS

The Reds won the NL Central as you know, earning the #2 seed in the National League brackets with a  97-65 record (second only to Washington's 98-64 mark). San Francisco stormed home late in the season to take the NL West. They could only earn the third seed with a 94-68 mark even after that dominating finish that left the LA Dodgers in the dust.

You probably know that Major League Baseball has tinkered with the structure of the playoffs this year. Cincinnati had to start out on the road for two games in this series, before getting the last three at home if necessary. Home field advantage would only beat getting a fifth game at home if it went that far, rather than the past format that allowed teams to establish a tone at home with two games, then have that fifth meeting up their sleeves if needed. As a result, all action to this point has been in San Francisco.

THE SERIES SO FAR
Game One: Cincinnati 5, San Francisco 2
Game Two: Cincinnati 9, San Francisco 0

And Cincinnati won anyway! In fact, this is about as dominant as you can imagine for a baseball series matching divisional winners. The Reds are up 14-2 on the scoreboard as a visitor, and have looked very much like championship material even though their ace starter Johnny Cueto had to leave Game One in the first inning with a balky back.

TUESDAY'S PITCHERS
San Francisco: Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)
Cincinnati: Bailey (13-10, 3.68 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)

We have very similar pitchers here. And, if you make some park adjustments, you can make the case that it's Bailey who really has the more impressive numbers. He didn't get to pitch half his season at home in a great pitcher's park!

Check this out:
Vogelsong road: 3.87 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
Bailey home: 5.16 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

Bailey was great on the road this season, but struggled in a bandbox park at home (21 dingers allowed in Cincy). Vogelsong's ERA was about a run higher on the road than at home this year, and he'll now be facing the Reds in a potentially dangerous park. Something for you Over/Under players to think about after also factoring in weather and lighting conditions.

Of course, Bailey was in the news lately for throwing a no-hitter. Did that gem against the zombie Pirates go to his head? He'll be facing a divisional champ fighting for their lives here rather than a shell of a team enduring a collapse. And, he'll be doing it in a park where he hasn't shown much consistency in 2012.

 

DETROIT AT OAKLAND (Game 3)
8:07 p.m. ET on TBS

Both of these teams needed dramatic Septembers just to win their way into the playoffs, let alone their divisions. Either (or both) could have missed the playoffs entirely with a few more stumbles, or a few more wins from other contenders. Oakland finished as the #2 seed in the American League with a 94-68 record. Detroit earned the #3 seed by winning the AL Central. They went 88-74, which is worse than both eventual Wildcard teams posted.

Yet...with a roster that's better built for the postseason than the regular season...it's the Tigers who are NOW playing like the more serious championship threat.

THE SERIES SO FAR
Game One: Detroit 3, Oakland 1
Game Two: Detroit 5, Oakland 4

Oakland basically blew Game Two, which really put them behind the eight-ball in the series because a rematch with Justin Verlander is still ahead. Not only does Oakland have to sweep three games at home to advance to the ALCS...but they'll have to take out Scherzer and Verlander in the process! Detroit did what it had to do to reach the postseason with a front-loaded pitching rotation. Now they're better positioned than many others with an engine that's close to hitting on all cylinders thanks also to a Triple Crown slugger.

TUESDAY'S PITCHERS
Detroit: Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
Oakland: Anderson (4-2, 2.57 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

Those numbers are polluted for Brett Anderson. He only made six starts this season...and most were against non-contenders. He was overmatched in late appearances vs. Detroit and the LA Angels when matched up against quality offenses. Handicap accordingly. He may be good enough to win, particularly against Sanchez who's also struggled vs. quality (including a bad recent start vs. the A's). He's not likely to be as good as that stat linen would suggest.

Game conditions must always be considered when handicapping Over/Unders in October. Just in terms of the pitchers, this is probably the best shot for an Over in this series given recent form vs. contenders within this tandem. That's common once you get to Game Three in a series. The aces go early...then somebody in the middle has to step up and pitch like an ace.

JIM HURLEY has been picking his spots so far in the bases. But, he's looking now to step out Tuesday and Wednesday because he knows all of you football guys once some extra BIG, JUICY, WINNERS! You can purchase the top side and totals right here at the website in the hours leading up to first pitch. If you have any questions about our remaining postseason baseball package, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. It's easy to create combination packages featuring both baseball and football (hey, don't forget that the NBA starts later this month!)

Back with you Wednesday here in the NOTEBOOK to look over this two, three, or four-game schedule...

St. Louis at Washington (G3): Carpenter vs. Jackson
Baltimore at NY Yankees (G3): Gonzalez vs. Kuroda
San Francisco at Cincinnati (G4 if necessary): Zito vs. Undecided
Detroit at Oakland (G4 if necessary): Scherzer vs. Griffin

Cincinnati and Detroit may finish things off Tuesday to lighten the schedule. Or, we may have a full GRAND SLAM with all four postseason showdowns still going strong. That would shape up as one of the best weekday playoff cards in modern history given the caliber of teams and some of the future Hall-of-Famers in uniform.

Of course...the biggest name in the HANDICAPPING HALL OF FAME belongs to legendary JIM HURLEY! Link up with the man in the middle of NETWORK'S information cyclone right now!

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Nov

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