I want to talk Major League Baseball Playoffs today, but first, just a quick reminder that Quiksilver Pro France officials were expecting a swell solid enough to make a Wednesday call for Round 3. The event has been off since Friday, but conditions were projected to improve and the waves were expected to return this morning. If that’s the case, then there has been a full day’s worth of action by the time this paper hits your driveway. Round 3 action features a head-to-head heat between Sebastian Zietz and John John Florence, who are among the 24 surfers vying to move on in this eighth stop on the World Championship Tour. Visit quiksilverlive.com/profrance/2013/ for results and information.
Ten teams entered Tuesday with a chance to get to the World Series. One of those 10 has now gone fishing, after Tuesday’s National League Wild Card matchup between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. You have more information than I do as to that result, but I picked the Reds to advance, despite Pittsburgh having home-field advantage. Pirates starter Francisco Liriano finished the season a bit shaky and the Reds got to face Liriano four times this year, winning three of those contests. Though I think the Pirates are the better team and certainly the better story, I think their first postseason appearance since 1992 was a short-lived one.
(Feel free to grin and shake your head if Liriano was lights out and Pittsburgh advanced.)
AL Wild Card – Tampa Bay at Cleveland: The American League needed a 163rd game to settle its Wild Card race, but the Tampa Bay Rays edged the Texas Rangers on Monday and will today face the Cleveland Indians, the AL’s other Wild Card winner. These one-game showdowns are unlike regular games in that starting pitchers are on a much shorter leash and most of the pitching staff is available to take the mound. The Indians are sending a rookie to the hill, but Danny Salazar throws hard and has been excellent in his brief MLB experience. Alex Cobb gets the ball for Tampa Bay after going 5-1 with a 2.41 ERA in his past nine starts.
Despite winning the final 10 games of the regular season, Cleveland played 17 of its final 23 games against some of the worst teams in baseball – the Mets (3), White Sox (6), Astros (4) and Twins (4). The other six games were all against the Royals, of which the Indians dropped four. I don’t think they’re as primed for a big game as the Rays, who essentially already played a playoff game on Monday. Throw in the rookie pitcher and I expect Tampa Bay to advance to the divisional round.
AL Division Series – Tampa Bay/Cleveland at Boston: Either way, I expect the AL Wild Card to bow out in the Divisional Round against the Boston Red Sox. Boston would much rather see the Indians win, given the Rays’ pitching and familiarity with the Red Sox starters after playing 19 regular-season games against one another. But neither result should trouble the Red Sox, who have a great bullpen and clutch bats, including Da Flyin’ Hawaiian, Shane Victorino. After a slow start in Boston, Victorino has been a catalyst since the All-Star break with an OPS of .864. He, along with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli give Boston the experience to survive a tough series and continue its surprising season into the American League Championship Series.
AL Division Series – Detroit at Oakland: I’m expecting Boston to end up facing the Oakland Athletics in that ALCS. Though the Detroit Tigers may have the best hitter (Miguel Cabrera) and the best pitcher (Max Scherzer) in the series, Oakland has the better team top to bottom. You may not know them yet, but players like Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and A.J. Griffin will soon become much more familiar names after Oakland stunned many by winning 96 games this season.
NL Division Series – Cincinnati/Pittsburgh at St. Louis: In the National League, if the Reds do survive and advance to face the St. Louis Cardinals, they won’t be around very long. I think St. Louis will be just fine against whichever Wild Card team it faces. All three NL Central teams battled during the regular season, but the Cards are just better. They will certainly miss first baseman Allen Craig, who recently suffered a foot injury, but St. Louis has great depth and Adam Wainright and Shelby Miller to head the rotation. With the help of Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Matt Holiday, they’ll make it past Cincinnati (or Pittsburgh) and into the NLCS for the third straight season.
NL Division Series – Los Angeles at Atlanta: Who will face the Cards in the NLCS? Why, the Dodgers of Los Angeles, of course. The best team in the National League over the final four months of the season will take on the Atlanta Braves in the divisional round. LA is clicking on all cylinders and shouldn’t have much to worry about. Once Yasiel Puig gave the team the jump start it so desperately needed early in the summer, the rest of the pieces fell smoothly into place. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez would be an MVP candidate had he not missed so many games. Outfielder Matt Kemp returned for the final 11 tilts of the season and went 11 for 35 with three doubles and a homer, adding a big bat to the middle of a potent lineup. Clayton Kershaw is the best starting pitcher in baseball and Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu are well above average for a No. 2 and No. 3 starter. The Dodgers will keep winning and beat a very good Braves team without breaking much of a sweat.
Enjoy the first few games and check back Friday, when I’ll be reviewing the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau.
• ‘My Thoughts Exactly’ appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in The Garden Island. Email David Simon your comments or questions to email@example.com. Follow David on Twitter @SimonTGI