Tag:CC Sabathia
Posted on: September 19, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 6:03 pm
 

3 to watch: The Philly dilemma edition

Three games back of the Phillies in the National League East, the best thing the Braves have going for them is six remaining head-to-head meetings with the Phils, starting with a series that begins Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Two and a half games ahead of the Padres in the NL wild-card race, the biggest thing the Braves have going against them is that they play six of their final 12 games against the league's best team -- the Phillies.

"It is tougher," Chipper Jones said. "But I don't think we'd want it any other way."

One reason, of course, is that the Braves would like to think that they can still win the East. To win the East now, they need for the Phillies to lose. The best way to guarantee that the Phillies lose is to beat them yourself.

The other reason is that the Braves actually have a winning record against the Phillies over the last two years. They went 10-8 last season, and they're 7-5 so far this year.

"The one thing we have done really well the last couple of years is play well against the Phillies," Jones said. "And we're going to have to. They're the best team in the National League, and for some reason, we get sky-high to play them.

"To beat them, we need to play a near-perfect game."

But to make the playoffs, the Braves don't need to finish ahead of the Phillies. They just need to win the wild card -- although that might necessitate beating the Phillies a few times.

"Now we can't split hairs," club president John Schuerholz said. "Now it's about getting to the playoffs."

But still, Schuerholz said he doesn't mind it that half of the Braves' remaining schedule features the Phils (with other six games against the Nationals and Marlins).

"It might be the energy level we need," he said. "They will be energized games."

And they're leading off this week's edition of 3 to watch (which doesn't include the Rangers, Twins or Reds, even though all three could clinch their divisions in the next few days:

1. The Phillies were easily able to adjust their rotation, so that the Braves will face Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, maybe the closest thing we've seen to a true Big Three since the days of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The Braves would have had a harder time making similar adjustments, and thus ace Tim Hudson won't pitch in this series. The Braves planned to start off with Jair Jurrjens, in Braves at Phillies, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park , but Jurrjens hurt his right knee in a bullpen session last Friday in New York. So 24-year-old Brandon Beachy, who was in Florida with the Braves' instructional league team, will get the start and make his major-league debut. Rookie Mike Minor and young Tommy Hanson are the other two Braves starters this week. The Phillies' Big Three would be lined up again to pitch in the final three regular-season games in Atlanta, although if the Phils have wrapped up the division by then, there's a chance they wouldn't all pitch.

2. Elsewhere on this site , I made what I thought was a reasoned but traditional case for Felix Hernandez as the American League's Cy Young leader. Hernandez could help his own case considerably with a big performance in Mariners at Blue Jays, Thursday afternoon (12:37 ET) at the Rogers Centre . The Jays have hit a major-league high 128 home runs in 69 home games (nearly two a game), and they average more than five runs a game at home. Hernandez hasn't faced the Blue Jays yet this year. Neither has CC Sabathia, who never lined up with any of the Yankees' first five series against the Jays (but figures to pitch in Toronto during the Yankees Sept. 27-29 visit).

3. First, Sabathia has a rematch with Tampa Bay's David Price, and if it's anything like their last game, it might be the 1 to watch this week. The first time around, a week ago in Florida, Sabathia and Price combined for 16 scoreless innings (eight apiece), while allowing just five hits (three of them off Price). They hook up again in Rays at Yankees, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium , and by the time it's over, we should have a better idea of who wins the American League East (and who's the AL wild card), and also of who is the leading threat to Hernandez's chance to win the Cy Young.


Posted on: September 19, 2010 7:36 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2010 7:47 pm
 

A reasoned, traditional argument for Felix

It feels impossible to have a reasoned argument about the American League Cy Young Award.

The new-age stat guys say you're a dinosaur if you even consider anyone but Felix Hernandez. The old-age win guys think you're nuts if you consider anyone who has basically been a .500 pitcher.

The first group no doubt noticed that Hernandez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning the other night against the Rangers (although knowing them, they were more impressed by his eight strikeouts) to improve his record to 12-11. The second group was more interested in seeing CC Sabathia record his 20th win the next night in Baltimore.

The second group will remind you that the idea of the game is to win. The first group insists just as loudly that wins are the least relevant statistic for starting pitchers.

The two sides can't talk to each other, because they don't even speak the same language. The first group swears by WAR; the second group might declare war on WAR, if it could even figure out what WAR is.

So here's my problem, an admittedly theoretical problem since I don't have an AL Cy Young vote this year:

I fit in more with the second group. I have nothing against many of the new stats, but I refuse to accept that wins don't matter. I've seen too many pitchers who pitch to their stats, who would rather have a six-inning, three-run quality start than a 6-5 complete-game win.

So I should be supporting CC for the Cy, right? And if not him, then maybe David Price.

Instead, with two weeks to go that could change my mind, I believe King Felix is the most deserving.

Does that mean that I've changed how I look at pitchers? Not really. Does it mean that I've accepted that wins are just a matter of luck? Not at all.

The only thing it means is that with all the evidence out there -- and with two weeks to go that could change things in what is a very close race -- I believe that Felix Hernandez has had a slightly better year than CC Sabathia or any other pitcher in the American League this year.

Not only that, but I believe that if anyone had an equivalent year to Felix back in 1991, when I first joined the Baseball Writers Association of America and could have had a Cy Young vote (don't remember whether I actually had one that year), I would have given him my vote.

Why? Here's why, without a single mention of WAR, FIP or ERA+:

-- Other than wins, he leads the league in all the traditional categories for starting pitchers. He's first in ERA, first in innings, first in strikeouts. The reason nobody won the Cy Young with a 12-11 record is that nobody ever had a season like this before. I checked. Using the excellent baseball-reference.com play finder, I searched for pitchers with 230 or more innings, 220 or more strikeouts, an ERA of 2.40 or lower and fewer than 14 wins. You know who came up? One guy. Felix. This year.

-- He's absolutely, 100 percent pitching to win. And his sad-sack team is absolutely, 100 percent not allowing him to win very often. The Mariners say Hernandez has had 13 starts where he has pitched at least seven innings and allowed one run or less, and five starts where he has at least eight shutout innings.

-- While he pitches in the weaker AL West, Hernandez has faced a tougher schedule than Sabathia or Price. Of Felix's 32 starts, 13 have come against probable playoff teams (and he's 7-5 with a 2.58 ERA in those seven games). Sabathia has made just six starts against playoff teams (he's 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA), and Price has made just seven (he's 2-2 with a 3.28 ERA). According to baseball-reference.com , Hernandez has made 17 starts against teams that are .500 or better (he's 9-6, 2.34), while Sabathia has made 13 (he's 6-2, 3.50) and Price has made 18 (10-5, 2.59).

-- As if it's not bad enough that he's saddled with one of the worst offenses in recent history, Hernandez hasn't even been helped by his bullpen. Despite all the innings he pitches, Hernandez has been the victim of three blown saves, plus another bullpen collapse so bad that it didn't count as a blown save because the lead was too big. Sabathia has also had three blown saves (and one other bullpen collapse) behind him, but he has been able to hand far more leads over to the bullpen. Factor in Felix's four complete-game wins, and that means he has turned 12 potential wins over to the bullpen; they've converted only eight of them (while CC's Yankee bullpen has converted 19 of 23).

So there you have it, an argument for Felix that doesn't ignore tradition, an argument that (hopefully) ignores all the noise and doesn't demand that you consider wins to be unimportant.


Posted on: September 12, 2010 8:51 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2010 9:05 pm
 

3 to watch: The Seeing the seeding edition

The players say it matters. The managers say it matters.

Ask Joe Maddon about the three games his Rays play against the Yankees this week, and the four games they play next week, and he'll tell you how important these games are. He'll tell you how great this is going to be.

"I definitely believe you're going to see playoff-like intensity in every one of those games," Maddon said. "I think you're going to see a very intense seven games. I do."

We don't.

They could be seven great games. They're definitely seven games that we wouldn't mind watching, especially the CC Sabathia-David Price matchup that kicks off the first series on Monday night.

"I want to see that, too," Rays left fielder Carl Crawford said. "When we have matchups like that, I become a fan."

It's a great matchup, between two teams that are separated by half a game now, and have been within 2 1/2 games of each other for 49 straight days. It's potentially a great series.

It's won't be playoff-intense, not the way Giants-Padres was playoff-intense, not the way Braves-Phillies next week may well be playoff-intense.

For playoff intensity, you need playoff pressure. And you only get playoff pressure if the loser goes home.

When the Yankees meet the Rays, the winner may well get to raise an American League East championship flag. The winner may well get home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The loser won't go home.

Instead, the loser becomes the wild card, with nearly as good a chance to hang the flag that matters on opening day next year. All they're really playing for is playoff seeding.

Baseball has had the wild-card system for 15 years, which means there have been 30 wild cards, and 30 teams that finished in first place in the same division as the wild card.

Twelve times, the division winner advanced further in October than the wild card did. Ten times, the wild card advanced further than the division winner. The other eight times, both the wild card and the division winner were eliminated in the first round.

So is there an advantage to finishing first? Maybe.

Is there a significant advantage? Definitely not.

In fact, with the AL East winner likely to face Texas in the first round, with Cliff Lee potentially going twice in a best-of-5 series, you could even argue that this year, the team that finishes second has the advantage.

In recent weeks, a few people have renewed the push for adding a second wild-card team in each league. The idea is that the two wild cards would have a play-in game (or a play-in series). Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated presented an excellent case last week.

In that system, Yankees-Rays would be huge. It still wouldn't be loser-goes-home, but at least it would be loser-is-at-a-big-disadvantage.

In that system, it might well be "playoff-intense."

In this system, it simply leads off this edition of 3 to watch:

1. No, we're not that excited about Yankees-Rays. But we are excited about Sabathia-Price, the pitching matchup in Yankees at Rays, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field . With Felix Hernandez allowing seven runs and losing to the Angels on Saturday night, we're even tempted to call this a Cy Young showdown. Sabathia would help his credentials with a 20th win. Price would help his with a win over the Yankees (especially since Hernandez has three of them). Sabathia is the seventh pitcher to go for a 20th win against a Tampa Bay team. Five of the first six succeeded. The one who didn’t? Sabathia, when he lost to Price last Oct. 2.

2. Through 143 games last year, the Twins were 5 1/2 games behind the Tigers. Through 143 games this year, the Twins are six games ahead of the White Sox. So are you ready to declare the American League Central race over? Not just yet, but it will be over if Chicago doesn't sweep the three-game series that opens with Twins at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field . The last time the Twins were swept in Chicago was in 2008, which is the same year that ended with a Twins-White Sox one-game playoff to decide the AL Central winner. The game-winning home run that night, of course, was hit by Jim Thome, then with the White Sox, now with the Twins.

3. Near the end of the Giants-Padres game Sunday, Giants announcer Mike Krukow asked partner Duane Kuiper who to root for when the Padres play the Rockies this week. Tough question, because the Giants begin the week percentage points behind the Padres, but just 1 1/2 games ahead of the third-place (and hard-charging) Rockies. It another fascinating series in baseball's most interesting division, with the team that just ended a 10-game losing streak meeting the team that now owns a 10-game winning streak. The Padres won't see Ubaldo Jimenez, but they will see Jason Hammel, who starts in Padres at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field . Hammel and Jimenez are the only pitchers who own three wins over the Padres this year, and if he wins Tuesday, Hammel could become just the seventh pitcher with at least four wins over a single opponent this season. The other six: Chris Carpenter (five wins vs. the Reds), Sabathia (four vs. the Orioles), Ryan Dempster (four vs. the Brewers), Chris Volstad (four vs. the Nationals), Roy Halladay (four vs. the Mets) and Price (four vs. the Blue Jays). Oh, and Kuiper's answer to Krukow: "I'm rooting for a 25-inning game."

Posted on: August 30, 2010 10:52 pm
 

Eight runs later, Cahill's candidacy takes a hit

NEW YORK -- The year Chris Carpenter won the Cy Young Award with the Cardinals, he gave up eight runs in one game. And nine runs in another game.

Randy Johnson gave up nine runs in a game in 2001, and won the Cy Young.

So why is Trevor Cahill basically out of the Cy Young discussion after giving up eight runs to the Yankees on Monday night?

Simply because it was so hard for Cahill to get into the Cy Young discussion in the first place.

Cahill had plenty going against him, even when he was second in the American League in ERA, as he was before Monday's pounding. He's not a favorite of the stat guys, because he doesn't get many strikeouts (he ranked 44th in the AL going into Monday) and because they believe his .215 batting average on balls in play (into Monday) indicates that he's been "lucky."

I think it doesn't matter if you're lucky or unlucky, because the Cy Young is based on pitching success, not on predicting future success. It's about winning games and preventing runs, and Cahill, 14-5 with a 2.43 ERA before Monday, was doing a good job at both.

Since May 5, when he got his injury-delayed first win of the season, Cahill was tied with CC Sabathia for the most wins in the majors, with 14. He had a 1.63 ERA since the All-Star break and a 0.92 ERA in August, and he was averaging eight innings a start this month.

He was starting to look like a Cy Young candidate. And now he doesn't.

After one bad start?

Yes, even though Cliff Lee also had a recent start where he allowed eight runs (to Baltimore). Yes, even though Felix Hernandez has twice allowed seven earned runs this year.

Cahill couldn't afford this bad start, because despite making the All-Star team this year, he's a relative unknown ("He's young, and he plays for Oakland," teammate Mark Ellis explained).

He couldn't afford this bad start, because it helps feed the idea that Cahill's great stats have been helped by pitching in the hitting-poor AL West (although he doesn't get to pitch against the awful A's lineup).

Think of it this way: If you had a Cy Young vote and had to decide between Cahill and Hernandez, would it matter to you that in two starts against the Yankees, Cahill allowed 14 runs in 10 innings, while in three starts against New York, Hernandez allowed one run in 26 innings?

Maybe it wouldn't. Maybe Cahill won't allow another run the rest of the season, will go on to win the AL ERA crown and will convince us he deserves the Cy Young.

"He's been as good as anyone in the league," Ellis said.

He's had an outstanding season. Before Monday night, it was an outstanding season that brought him into the Cy Young debate.

Then he had his worst start of the year, one that led him to say, "I was just embarrassed to get hit around like that."

Someone then asked Cahill about the first-inning ball that ripped a hole in Ellis' glove at second base.

"Any time the other team is hitting balls breaking guys' gloves, that's not a good sign," Cahill said.

He's a good pitcher, and he seems like a good kid.

He's still having an outstanding season. Just not an outstanding Cy Young season.
Posted on: August 1, 2010 9:23 pm
 

3 to watch: The Instant rewards? edition

Cliff Lee lost his first start for the Rangers. Dan Haren not only lost his Angels debut, but he was knocked out of the box by a line drive.

Roy Oswalt lost his first Phillies start.

Yeah, it's great to trade for a starting pitcher, isn't it?

You make the deal with hopes that it will go the way it did for Lee last year, when he won his first five starts for the Phillies, then took them all the way to the World Series. You remember that CC Sabathia went 11-2 down the stretch with the 2008 Brewers, and changed the story of a franchise by taking them to the playoffs.

You remember Doyle Alexander (9-0) with the 1987 Tigers. You don't remember Jarrod Washburn (1-3) with the 2009 Tigers.

A starting pitcher traded at midseason doesn't get that many chances to affect the pennant race. Lee made just 12 regular-season starts for the Phillies last year; even Sabathia, who was dealt before the All-Star break and famously pitched on three days' rest down the stretch in September, started only 17 regular-season games for the Brewers.

The best deals make a difference, but with so few starts, each one is precious.

Oswalt makes his second Phils start this Wednesday in Florida. Haren makes his third Angels start Wednesday in Baltimore. Lee, who lost to the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday, will face the A's this weekend in Oakland.

Meanwhile, three other teams show off new starters this week, as you'll see in 3 to watch:

1. The Cardinals no doubt would have rather had Oswalt, but the guy they got was Jake Westbrook, who has come back well from Tommy John surgery. Westbrook's first start will come in Astros at Cardinals, Monday night (8:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . Westbrook is a career American Leaguer. He was 6-7 with a 3.56 ERA in 27 interleague games against National League teams. His opponent Monday is Brett Myers, the guy a lot of teams would have liked to have traded for; the Astros instead signed him to a contract extension.

2. The Dodgers were seven games out of first place at the deadline, and 4 1/2 games behind in the wild-card race. But the Dodgers obviously still believe they can win, as they picked up four players in the last week, including starter Ted Lilly, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Lilly gets a tough assignment in his debut with his new team, facing Mat Latos in Padres at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium .

3. Edwin Jackson keeps moving from team to team, impressing everyone with his stuff and his makeup, but never making enough of an impact that anyone decides he's indispensible. Will that change with the White Sox, his fifth team in an eight-year career? We'll find out, beginning with White Sox at Tigers, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park . One interesting note: Jackson lost his final two starts for the Tigers, both against the White Sox last September. One reason he did, according to a source, is that he was tipping his pitches then and the White Sox had picked it up. Jackson is an interesting deadline pickup, anyway, because his career ERA after the All-Star break is 5.09, more than half a run worse than his pre-break ERA of 4.47.
Posted on: July 4, 2010 4:54 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2010 5:15 pm
 

3 to watch: The Scene of the crime edition

The last time the Giants were in Milwaukee, Prince Fielder hit a walkoff home run, his teammates fell down like bowling pins, and the Giants got so upset they still haven't forgotten it.

The last time the Yankees were in Oakland, Alex Rodriguez ran across Dallas Braden's mound, Braden got upset, and a week later Braden's grandmother told A-Rod to "stick it."

So now it's July, and the Giants are back in Milwaukee, and the Yankees are back in Oakland.

Which no doubt means that Prince and A-Rod will be back in the news this week. But for what?

With Prince, the questions will be whether the Brewers should trade him right now, and how interested the Giants should be in trying to trade for him (or, perhaps, for Brewers outfielder Corey Hart).

The teams have talked in the past, but the Giants' reluctance to part with any of their big-time pitchers was always a big sticking point. Of course, that's the same sticking point that has kept the Giants from acquiring any significant hitter these last few years, which in turn has kept them from first place in the National League West.

In any case, the Giants could sure use Fielder, so much so that they'd have no problem overlooking the celebration they hated so much last September. When Andy Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News asked Barry Zito about Fielder , Zito answered, "There's a ton of guys in the league we hate to play against, but we'd love to play with."

Remember, Zito is the guy who threw at Fielder this spring in Arizona, a payback for the bowling-pin display last September.

There's no chance of A-Rod getting traded to the A's -- his $32 million salary would cover more than half the Oakland payroll. And there's no chance he'll run across Braden's mound -- the A's lefty is on the disabled list.

So if we're talking A-Rod this week, we're more likely talking the run to 600 home runs. Rodriguez is at 595 right now, which means it's unlikely but not impossible that he'll get to 600 in Oakland.

For the record, Rodriguez has hit 19 career home runs in 86 games at the Coliseum. He hasn't hit more than one home run in a series in Oakland since 2004, and hasn't ever hit more than three in any series at the Coliseum.

On to 3 to watch:

1. If the Phillies are going to survive all their injuries, you'd think they would need to win every game that Roy Halladay starts. Instead, they've struggled to score runs for Halladay, and thus they're 3-7 in his last 10 starts. They get another chance, in Braves at Phillies, Monday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park .

2. No one remembers it now, but the A-Rod/Braden game back in April was a Yankee loss, and a CC Sabathia loss. And while Braden won't pitch in this week's series, Sabathia will, in Yankees at A's, Tuesday night (10:05 EDT) at the Coliseum . He pitched well in that April start, allowing just four hits in an eight-inning complete game (a 4-2 A's win), but for his career, Sabathia is 2-5 with a 5.95 ERA in 10 starts in what is basically his hometown ballpark.

3. Zito has just one win in his last nine starts (and a 5.30 ERA in that span), so he'll have more on his mind than just Fielder, in Giants at Brewers, Thursday afternoon (2:10 EDT) at Miller Park . For the record, Fielder is just 2 for 12 against Zito in his career, although one of the two hits was a home run.

Posted on: June 25, 2010 10:26 am
 

3 to watch: The Wrong place, wrong time edition

If we're going to have one final weekend of interleague play, we may as well have Dodgers-Yankees.

Too bad they put it in the wrong place.

Too bad that right before, or right after, Manny in Boston we didn't get Joe in New York.

Joe Torre against the Yankees is a nice little side story. Joe Torre against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium would have been a must-watch.

"It certainly would have been something that would have been exciting," Torre said last weekend. "There's no question."

A Torre appearance in Yankee Stadium wouldn't have presented Yankee fans with the same conflicted feelings that Manny Ramirez in Fenway Park presented the people of Boston. But it sure would have been interesting to see how Yankee management reacted, given the 2007 breakup and the Yankees' reluctance ever since then to acknowledge that Torre was such of big part of their recent history.

Torre against the Yankees at Dodger Stadium doesn't have the same feel. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee players have professed their love for their former manager (and vice-versa). There will be hugs all around.

And as for Torre at Yankee Stadium, there's always the World Series. Torre likes to remind people that the Dodgers were two wins away from giving him that return last October.

"That would have been pretty wild," he said.

It could still happen, but given the likelihood that Torre leaves the Dodgers after this season, it would probably need to happen this October.

In any case, Dodgers-Yankees is one of a few potential World Series previews on this final-weekend interleague schedule. You've also got Twins-Mets, Rockies-Angels and Tigers-Braves, as you can see on this weekend's edition of 3 to watch:

1. The Tigers don't say that Brennan Boesch is going to have a better career than Jason Heyward. But they do like to point out that right now, Boesch has better numbers than Heyward. In any case, in a year where the rookie class has been heavily tilted towards the National League, the Tigers are the exception, with an outstanding rookie class of their own. They'll show off another one -- 22-year-old left-hander Andy Oliver -- in Tigers at Braves, Friday night (7:35 EDT) at Turner Field . One rival scout who saw Oliver recently at Double-A Erie said "his stuff is electric," and predicted that at the very least the Tigers would use him as a nasty left-on-left reliever in September. Now, with Rick Porcello getting a tune-up at Triple-A Toledo, Oliver gets his chance early.

2. Torre made his feelings about the Dodger rotation known late in spring training, when he named Vicente Padilla as his opening day starter. No one -- then or now -- would call Padilla the Dodgers ace, but in Yankees at Dodgers, Friday night (10:10 EDT) at Dodger Stadium , he opposes Yankee ace CC Sabathia. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers spending money to add a true ace this summer, but it's hard to imagine them getting to that Torre-in-New York World Series without one.

3. We don't get Torre in New York, and we also don't get Johan in Minnesota, because Johan Santana's first-ever meeting with his former team comes in Twins at Mets, Saturday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Citi Field . Oh well. At least we get Carl in New York. That's Carl Pavano, who starts for the Twins Saturday, and presents us with this question: When he gets booed, will it be because of the Mets fans who always boo any current or former Yankee (even Phil Coke of the Tigers on Thursday night), or will it be Yankee fans, who with good reason never warmed up to the guy who basically stole money from them for four years? One other starter who will be on the minds of fans of both of these teams: Cliff Lee. If the Twins and Mets are going to meet in October, you've got to figure that means one of them has traded for the left-hander whose presence in Philadelphia prevented Dodgers-Yankees last October.
Posted on: June 13, 2010 7:33 pm
 

3 to watch: The Rematch (or preview) edition

Given that most American League teams play only five National League teams in any given year, there should only be about a 31 percent chance of a "World Series rematch" in any given regular season. And yet, this is the fifth time in six seasons that the two World Series teams have played an interleague series the following year.

I'd like to say there's some great meaning in that. The fact is that it means basically nothing.

But with the Phillies due back at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, for the first time since Game 6 last November, this is one of the few times it has felt like not only are we seeing the two best teams from last year, but we also may be seeing the two best teams the two leagues have to offer this year.

Granted, the Phillies have played so poorly of late that they've managed to fall behind the Braves and the Mets in the NL East. Granted, the Yankees have spent most of the season behind the Rays in the AL East, finally catching them on Sunday.

There's obviously no guarantee that these two teams see each other in October, but it's still easy to think that we could have the first true World Series rematch (in October, that is) since 1977-78.

And if we're not seeing a World Series preview this week in the Bronx, maybe we're seeing one in Atlanta, or in Minnesota.

We'll touch on all three, in this week's 3 to watch:

1. The Yankees (and 12 other teams) were happy to see Roy Halladay depart the American League last December. They won't be nearly as happy if they see him in Game 1 of the World Series this October. There's a long way before then, but a Halladay vs. CC Sabathia matchup will give Phillies at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium even more of an October feel. Halladay is 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA in 37 career games against the Yankees.

2. The Phillies are behind the Braves. The Yankees have spent most of the season behind the Rays. So naturally, while the Phillies play the Yankees this week, the Braves will play the Rays. And if you don't believe Halladay vs. Sabathia is a look-ahead to what we'll see in Game 1 this fall, how about James Shields vs. Tim Hudson, in Rays at Braves, Thursday night (7:10 EDT) at Turner Field ?

3. Don't like Halladay vs. Sabathia or Shields vs. Hudson as a possible Game 1 World Series matchup? OK, then how about Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Francisco Liriano, who will meet up in Rockies at Twins, Thursday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Target Field . The Rockies are four games out of first place in the NL West, which sounds pretty good when you remember that a year ago at this time, they were 10 1/2 games out.
 
 
 
 
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