ALCS & NLCS Preview: Experience matters | Baseball | CBC Sports

MLBALCS & NLCS Preview: Experience matters

Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 | 09:11 PM

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Big-game righty Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals are hardened from the battles they won en route to their World Series title a year ago. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press) Big-game righty Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals are hardened from the battles they won en route to their World Series title a year ago. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

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Experience has triumphed over youth in this Major League Baseball postseason.

The fact that the three most recent World Series-winning teams - the New York Yankees (2009), San Francisco Giants (2010) and St. Louis Cardinals (2011) - have advanced to their respective league championship series this year is evidence of this.

Add in the Detroit Tigers, who will compete in the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive season, and it's clear that previous playoff success is an asset in October.
Experience has triumphed over youth in this Major League Baseball postseason.

The fact that the three most recent World Series-winning teams - the New York Yankees (2009), San Francisco Giants (2010) and St. Louis Cardinals (2011) - have advanced to their respective league championship series this year is evidence of this.

Add in the Detroit Tigers, who will compete in the American League Championship Series for the second consecutive season, and it's clear that previous playoff success is an asset in October.

The Tigers will battle the Bronx Bombers in the best-of-seven ALCS beginning Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The National League Championship Series pits the 2010 World Series-winning Giants against the reigning champion Cardinals, starting on Sunday night in San Francisco.

Here's a breakdown of each series:

American League Championship Series

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

Home Field Advantage: Yankees

Regular Season Records: Tigers - 88-74 (1st in AL Central); Yankees - 95-67 (1st in AL East)

Season Series: Yankees 6-4

Past Playoff History: Tigers defeated Yankees in ALDS in 2006 and 2011.

Analysis: The Yankees belted a major league-leading 245 home runs during the regular season, but they mustered just four in their ALDS against Baltimore. The Bombers will need Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, who combined for four hits in 38 ALDS at bats, to snap out of their slumps. It was largely thanks to Derek Jeter (.364 in ALDS) and two clutch, late-inning homers from Raul Ibanez that the Yanks were able to scrape by the Orioles. But the pedigree of the hitters on this club - which also include Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher - is too good not to expect the Yankees' offence to be better in the ALCS.

The Yankees were forced to use ace CC Sabathia in Game 5 of the ALDS. The good news is that he tossed 17-2/3 superb innings - including a complete game in the series clincher. The bad news is that he won't pitch again until at least Game 3 of the ALCS. Andy Pettitte, who limited the O's to three runs in seven innings in his ALDS outing, will start Saturday, while Hiroki Kuroda or David Phelps will likely get the nod on Sunday.

Relievers Rafael Soriano and David Robertson were sensational in the opening round.

But the Yanks' pitching staff will have the daunting task of shutting down Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. One-time Yankees prospect Austin Jackson has also blossomed into an elite leadoff hitter. But the Tigers, who relied too heavily on this trio during the regular season, hope that Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta, two of the club's best ALDS hitters, continue to be productive.

Ace Justin Verlander, who set an ALDS record by striking out 22 Oakland A's, pitched a complete-game shutout in the deciding contest on Thursday and won't be available until Game 3. Right-hander Doug Fister, one of the AL's best pitchers since the all-star break, will get the Game 1 assignment, followed by right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who owns a 2.23 ERA in his last nine starts, in Game 2. Strikeout artist Max Scherzer will pitch Game 4.

The Tigers' weaknesses include their defence and bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde has struggled for much of 2012 and he blew another save in Game 4 of the ALDS. Set-up man Joaquin Benoit has also been shaky in three playoff appearances.

Prediction: The Yankees boast the stronger bullpen, but Detroit's starting rotation is superior and the Tigers have had an extra day of rest heading into Saturday's opener. Tigers in 7.

National League Championship Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants


Home Field Advantage: Giants

Regular Season Records: Cardinals - 88-74 (2nd in NL Central, wild card); Giants - 94-68 (1st in NL West)

Season Series:
Tied 3-3

Past Playoff History: Cardinals defeated Giants in 1987 NLCS. Giants beat Cardinals in 2002 NLCS.

Analysis: When Albert Pujols departed and manager Tony La Russa retired in the off-season, most assumed the Cardinals would take a step back in 2012. But the bulk of their 2011 championship squad remained intact. Right-hander Chris Carpenter, who missed the first five months of the season with shoulder woes, recorded a win over the Nationals on Wednesday and is now 10-2 with a 2.88 ERA in 16 post-season starts.

The Cards' rotation also includes Cy Young candidate Kyle Lohse and former 20-game winner Adam Wainwright. Right-hander Lance Lynn, who won 18 games during the regular season, will start Sunday's opener. He's expected to be followed by Carpenter in Game 2. Headlined by flame-throwers Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal, their bullpen was solid in the NLDS.

Propelled by Carlos Beltran, who clubbed two more homers in the NLDS and now has 13 career post-season blasts, and Daniel Descalso (two homers, six RBIs in NLDS), the Cardinals staged another unlikely, ninth-inning comeback in Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington. First baseman Allen Craig (.316 in NLDS) and David Freese (.421 in NLDS) are also key offensive contributors.

Rebounding from a 2-0 deficit to oust the Reds, the Giants' confidence is high. Three members of their staff - Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum - started for their 2010 World Series-winning club. But two of them - Cain and Bumgarner - didn't perform well against the Reds, nor did Barry Zito.

Cain pitched the final game of the NLDS on Thursday, so Bumgarner will start Sunday's opener. Ryan Vogelsong will get the starting nod in Game 2, while Lincecum, who allowed just one run in 6-1/3 innings in relief in the NLDS, could replace Zito in the rotation. Anchored by Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and George Kontos, the Giants' patchwork bullpen continues to be effective.

The Giants hit .126 in the first three games of the NLDS, before breaking out for eight runs in Game 4 and six more in Game 5. Buster Posey, whose grand slam in Game 5 struck the deathblow to the Reds, will need more offensive support from Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Brandon Belt (.077 in NLDS).

Prediction: The pitching staffs are even, but the Cardinals possess a more potent offence and seem to have recaptured their 2011 playoff mojo. Cards in seven.

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