As the leaves begin to change color and the crisp air of fall sneaks its way back into our lives, baseball just reminded us why we love it and produced one last summer night.
The end of the season couldn't have been better. Four teams took the field Wednesday night with the hopes of a city on their back. Two were trying to avoid titanic collapses while two attempted to defy odds and break into the elite eight with the dream of World Series title still alive.
Two teams were down to their final strike before rallying to win, one team came back from seven down, an ace delivered a complete game shutout, and there was a walk-off home run. Not even a rain delay could keep baseball from shining Wednesday.
The Rays and Red Sox played 162 games each and their seasons were decided in a matter of minutes, with Tampa Bay treating themselves to a champagne shower. The Cardinals blasted their way past Houston into the postseason, while the rookie closer in Atlanta coughed one up to the National League's top dogs.
It was a blessing in disguise that the playoff spots were decided in regulation. Forget about the players getting rest, it was the fans who needed Thursday off to ease their nerves and get a cup of hot tea. Back at it Friday.
So here we go…another Fall Classic is lying in wait. Who will get their and who will bring home the hardware. Here's your guide to the Divisional round complete with game schedules and predictions.
New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers
When the AL contests kick off Friday all eyes will be on the Bronx as Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander squares off with the Bombers. Verlander whose 24 wins lead the bigs this season also brings in 250 strikeouts and a sub one WHIP. The key to the series will be Verlander. If he can neutralize the big bats of the Yanks the Tigers have a real shot.
Miguel Cabrera and company will have to prove that they can get it done away from home, but in a short series the starters for Detroit give them an edge. Yankees rookie Ivan Nova had an amazing year but he is still unproven in the playoffs and getting a W while giving up 7 runs won't fly against the Central champs.
The Yankees are aging and its painfully obvious, just ask Alex Rodriguez. He hasn't looked healthy as of late. They will rely heavily on the offense of Curtis Granderson, Robby Cano, and Mark Teixeira to blast their way into the next round. However, If Verlander can set the tone in Game 1 the home field advantage is gone and everything evens up. The Tigers just won their first division title since 1987 and are primed an ready to take out the 27-time world champs.
Langseth's Pick: Tigers in 5.
Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
These two teams met last season in this round and it was baseball magic. Look for that again as Josh Hamilton leads a high powered offense against Evan Longoria and the scrappy Rays. Nine games out on September 2, the Rays (with some help from Boston) rallied to win the Wildcard and pack their bags for Arlington.
The Rangers come in with 96 wins and a devastating lineup. The additions of Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli help round out a who's who of power hitters. Beltre, Nap, and Ian Kinsler all had over 30 bombs and don't sleep on Michael Young, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Hamilton.
C.J. Wilson, the Rangers ace should go out and win Game 1. Which is a great feat considering that last year neither team could win in their own yard. But by golly, here come those pesky Rays. Tampa Bay believes, and that's some powerful stuff. After clawing their way back into the postseason picture with a win capped by a 12th inning walk off the Rays made us all remember that in baseball anything is possible. The Rays will make this fun to watch.
But the Rangers are too tough and still stinging from last year's World Series defeat. They're on a road to redemption. The Rays will give them all they've got but in the end Texas moves on.
Langseth's Pick: Rangers in 5.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The team that Cardinals fans and players pulled hard for over the final three days of the season will be the same team that gives them fits beginning Saturday. The Phillies bring in the best record in baseball and will ride their horses deep into the playoffs. Philly has the best starting pitching in baseball and as a team they know how to finish.
Don't tell St. Louis that their run to the title will end here. The Red Birds rallied from 8.5 games back and can do some damage if given the opportunity. However, issues in their bullpen have plagued them all season long and they probably won't figure it out over the next week. The Phillies will rely on timely hitting and monster pitching performances beginning with Roy Halladay in Game 1.
Where the Yankees will see light at the end of the tunnel if they get through Verlander, the Cards will be greeted by Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels after Halladay. Bad news.
Langseth's Pick: Phillies in 4.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Arizona D-Backs
The desert is booming with excitement as a young D-Backs club ran away with the West. They're about to run into a Brewers club looking to put the hurt on somebody. This might be the most entertaining series of the first round simply because baseball fans aren't used to seeing games in October live from Arizona or Milwaukee.
The two teams enter the divisional round looking very similar. Both rely on the pitching prowess of an ace and some thump from the middle of the lineup. It will be interesting to see how Kirk Gibson's crew handles the pressure of the playoffs. So far, they have played solid, fundamentally sound baseball and have blasted their way into the dance. The Brew Crew also count on some big arms, big bats, and one giant Prince. Fielder and Ryan Braun had amazing seasons and will probably steal votes from each other for MVP.
These teams are very evenly matched but home field advantage will play a pivotal role. The Cheese State has been good to the Brewers and they bring in a Major League-best 57-24 record at home. Braun and company are about to wow some folks.
Langseth's Pick: Brewers in 4.