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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Postseason picks: Phillies will ride pitching to World Series title


Oh, yeah, sure. Riiiiight.

We're still attempting to sort out exactly what happened on Wednesday night, the morgue still hasn't finished with the Red Sox and Braves and we need a Costco-sized vat of Bengay for this new condition called "remote thumb" (similar to tennis elbow, only caused by excessive clicking between games, and the double-faults are centralized to Boston and Atlanta).

And the editors come looking for postseason predictions right ... now?

Let me tell you something. These guys are funnier than Jerry Seinfeld. It's like working with an office full of Tina Feys.

Tampa Bay was nine games out of a playoff spot on Sept. 4? St. Louis was 8 ½ out on Sept. 6?

This kind of zany, laugh-track stuff happens over the past four weeks, and now I'm supposed to tell you what's going to happen over the next four weeks?

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Well ... what the hell?

Here's a prediction: By October's end, I'll have gleefully devoured at least 12 authentic Philly cheesesteaks.

Here's another: Within days, I'll re-learn how to pronounce the "Schuylkill" River. And one more: By month's end, I'll know shortstop and Ben & Jerry's ice cream freak Jimmy Rollins' favorite flavor.

Philadelphia is where it's at. The Phillies are everything we thought. They suffocate you with pitching, slice-and-dice you with pitching, turn your lights out with ... gee, guess.

Like Clint Eastwood and pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms, the Phillies are one of the few things in this cruel world that consistently delivers.

They held a photo op disguised as a news conference on Day 1 this spring with their vaunted rotation at the podium. Looking back now, I still sit and wonder: What in the hell was Joe Blanton doing up there with them?

But more than that, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt were billed as four-fifths of a rotation for the ages before the ink was dry on Lee's contract last winter. Then they went out and pitched like it. Imagine, in this A.J. Burnett, Carl Crawford, money-for-nothin' world.

The Phillies' 3.02 ERA was the best in the majors. Their 102 wins set a new club record, bettering 101 in 1976 and 1977. No National League club won as many as 102 since the 2004 Cardinals (105).

Behind Halladay, Lee, Hamels and the gang, the Phillies turned in just their third 100-win season in more than 100 years of hardball.

Rollins told us this spring the Phils would win 100 games. He may as well have added that the sun is hot and the sky is blue. That the Phillies were the team to beat was obvious then, and it's obvious now.

And, incidentally, it's pronounced "Skook-ul." ...

Division Series

Phillies vs. Cardinals: If serious-as-a-kidney stone Halladay has a sense of humor, he'll drop a Game 1 no-hitter on Tony La Russa's crew. Remember Doc's Game 1 no-no against the Reds last year? Wasn't that fun? The high-flying Cardinals won 23 of their last 31 games, but that shaky bullpen is a bad match in Citizens Bank Bandbox, er, Park. Phillies in 4.

Brewers vs. Diamondbacks: Must be the bratwurst -- the Brewers' .700 home winning percentage (57-24) was the best in the majors. Zack Greinke was 11-0 at Miller Park. The 57 home wins set a franchise record. Except ... the first time Milwaukee lost consecutive home games this season, it was to Arizona on July 4 and 5. Still, I wouldn't want any part of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Brewers in 4.

Tigers vs. Yankees: The Yankees lead the majors with 867 runs scored. Tigers pitching has been Motown sound since Doug Fister joined the hit parade. The prospect of facing Justin Verlander twice in a best-of-5 series is more daunting than Angel Minka Kelly's new gig working for Charlie. And Detroit usually boxes CC Sabathia around pretty good -- especially Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Tigers in 5.

Rangers vs. Rays: Rays manager Joe Maddon says Texas' lineup at home is sick. As ever, Maddon is right. The Rangers were third in the AL with 855 runs scored, and five players crushed at least 25 homers: Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz. The Rays can prevent runs (second in the AL in both pitching, 3.58 team ERA, and fielding percentage, .988), but how much more Gulf Coast water can they turn into wine? Rangers in 4.

League Championship Series

Phillies vs. Brewers: If you think Prince Fielder is tons of fun, check this out. Milwaukee's Mashers vs. Philadelphia pitching? Fielder and Braun are the game's best one-two punch, and Milwaukee's pitching can slow Rollins, Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence and Co. in Greinke, the vastly underrated Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum and late-innings bullpen pieces LaTroy Hawkins, Takahashi Saito, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. But Philly can win on the road -- and did in taking three of four in Milwaukee in early September. Phillies in 6, with Pence as the MVP.

Tigers vs. Rangers: Everyone knows about Verlander, but Fister is the new Doyle Alexander. The Tigers definitely have the pitching to slow Rangers bats. And in Cabrera, Martinez, Alex Avila, Delmon Young and Austin Jackson, Detroit has pumped out more hits than Bob Seger, Madonna and Kid Rock combined. Tigers in 7, with Cabrera as MVP.

World Series

Tigers vs. Phillies: Former Tigers ace Mickey Lolich went on to open a doughnut shop. Former Tigers and Phillies ace Jim Bunning became a (cranky) senator. We can only speculate where life will take Verlander (maybe he'll succeed former NBA star Dave Bing and become mayor of Detroit?) and Halladay (future proprietor of Doc's Famous Cheesesteaks?). We also can only hope that the stars will align and the two aces will oppose each other in Game 1 or 2. Talk about an instant classic. Phillies over Tigers in 7, with Halladay as the MVP.


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