St. Louis vs. Detroit
After an unprecedented run at predicting playoff outcomes, it all comes to a merciful end after one more series. While the Cardinals’ win wasn’t surprising, given the state of the Mets’ pitching staff, the Tigers’ sweep over the A’s certainly was. I’ve underrated this Detroit team all season long, never truly taking them seriously. Until now, as I’ve finally come to my senses; it’s clearer than ever Detroit is the best team in baseball. Their starting pitching is talented and deep, their bullpen is full of power arms, something that always works well in the postseason, their lineup generates runs well, and they’re this year’s team of destiny, as Jim Leyland can do no wrong. Detroit enters on a seven-game winning streak and as definite favorites. Before this year, however, the Tigers had posted 12 straight losing seasons – in 2003, they set an AL record with an embarrassing 119 defeats. Overall, they’re the losingest franchise in the majors over the past 13 years.
The Cardinals may have only won 83 regular season games, but they deserve some credit as well, and if Anthony Reyes pitches up to his ability, they won’t be doormats during the World Series. Albert Pujols will need to snap out of his slump fast, however, or this series could be finished quickly. It remains to be seen how the long layover will affect Detroit, but it certainly helped Joel Zumaya and Sean Casey. The Cardinals, however, enter with Pujols, Scott Rolen, David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds all ailing. Both teams may have stumbled down the stretch, but they certainly picked the right time to peak. Unbelievably, the Detroit Tigers are baseball’s best team in 2006.