Every year, I do a post about the makeup of the 2011 postseason picture for baseball, and this year is no exception... with one exception. The Diamondbacks are back in contention for the first time since 2007! A win over the San Francisco Giants at any time this weekend, or any combination of two Diamondbacks wins, two Giants losses, or one of each within the next six games seals the deal and makes the DBacks 2011 National League West champions!
To answer the obvious question, yes, yes, YES I have already bought my tickets to the National League Division Series here in Phoenix should we make it. That all being said, here's the current postseason picture:
East: The New York Yankees clinched the AL East crown for the 17th time tonight with their win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Obviously the Yankees are always a tough opponent, but that the AL East was only won with six games to spare says a lot about the rest of the field. The Yankees haven't been themselves since losing to the Diamondbacks in 2001... can they pull off win number 28 this year?
Central: The Detroit Tigers ran away with the Central this year, and with Verlander as their ace, they remain a very tough opponent. Their hitting is good, their pitching is stellar, and they have all the tools to make a run for the title.
West: The Texas Rangers lead the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 5 games going into the final stretch, and their magic number is 3. The Rangers have seven games left to play, but three of those are against the Angels, so the Halos aren't quite out of it just yet.
Wild Card: The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are all still in contention. Currently it's the BoSox atop the field, but just by 2 1/2 games over both competitors. With the magic number for Boston set at 5, there's no guarantee yet that they're going to make it. Recently, the Rays have really been on a roll, and I wouldn't count them out.
East: The Phillies locked up the majors' best record - and the NL East - a long time ago. They have been everything this year that all the pundits predicted. They look primed to recapture their 2009 title, and with Halladay and Lee leading the way, followed by a killer offense, it'll take determination to stop them. However, they also have a target the size of the Twins' stadium on their backs, so a determined team with something to prove definitely has a shot.
Central: The Milwaukee Brewers hold the hammer over the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been streaking lately trying to play catch-up. The Brew Crew's magic number is 3, and their schedule has them set against the Marlins and the Pirates to close out the year. I'd feel confident in saying they can probably get three wins out of the deal to put the Cards to bed.
West: Like I mentioned above, the DBacks magic number is now 2 over the San Francisco Giants. The Giants come to Phoenix this weekend for a three-game set, and anything but a sweep of the Snakes gives the title to Arizona. Despite exceptional pitching, I don't think Brian Wilson's team is going to be able to "Book it!" this year!
Wild Card: The Atlanta Braves currently hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3 1/2-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals face the Cubs this weekend in what is sure to be an emotionally-charged set as they try to take over the Wild Card lead, if not the NL Central, and the Giants play the Diamondbacks for their fight to remain in contention. The Braves take on the Nationals, followed by the Phillies, so this is by no means locked up yet for any of the three teams.
If the postseason started today, the picture would look like this:
Rangers @ Yankees
Red Sox @ Tigers
Diamondbacks @ Phillies
Braves @ Brewers
Frankly, I can't even make good predictions yet because the Wild Card races are so tight (it will come down to the wire in the NL, I think), so I'll hold off until next week. But just looking at the matchups, the Diamondbacks and Phillies would be fun to see - hopefully the underdog team that wasn't supposed to make it out of the cellar this year can play Daniel to the Philly Goliath - and the Tigers and Red Sox matchup would be a good one as well. If the Rangers could trounce the Yankees in a matchup from the 2010 NLCS, it would be nice to see them try for another World Series berth.
All-in-all, unless we get Yankees-Phillies again this year, the postseason should be a fun one to watch! Personally, I'm rooting for a Diamondbacks-Tigers World Series (or perhaps a rematch of 2001....)!