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World Series Trophy

Now that the Chicago White Sox finally took care of their regular season business, the mad dash for the World Series title — otherwise known as the Major League Baseball playoffs — begins tonight in earnest as three of the four divisional series are scheduled to begin. There are a ton of storylines to keep up with so we have a small series-by-series breakdown of what you can expect and some things to watch for as the games progress.

Chicago Cubs versus the Los Angeles Dodgers
I’m not going to get into jinxes and curses for this because that’s the myopic way of viewing this series. Instead, I’m going for Joe Torre versus Lou Pinella, Manny versus Derrek Lee or Alfonso Soriano versus Andre Ethier. Both teams have solid pitching staffs and good hitters sprinkled throughout the line-up. They haven’t played each other since June, with Chicago winning the regular season match-up, 5-2; but that was before Manny Ramirez was traded to LA.

Dodgers, Cubs

Areas of Interest
Will Dick Stockton jinx the Cubs after they avoided a regular season collapse? Is Manny actually true-blue or is he just saying the right things, something he didn’t always do in Boston? What about Furcal returning to the Dodgers line-up. Does it hurt or help LA?

Game 1 Starting Pitchers
Tonight, Derrick Lowe (14-11, 3.24 ERA) takes the hill for Los Angeles. He’ll be opposed by Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96 ERA).

Prediction
Besides Dick Stockton, this has the feeling of being the Cubs year. Cubs win, 3-1.

Milwaukee Brewers versus the Philadelphia Phillies
Howard versus Prince, C.C. Sabathia and Brett Myers (instead of Hamels, unfortunately), Chase Utley’s versus Ryan Braun — just some of the headline players taking the stage when the series kicks off at the top of the hour. During the regular season, the Phillies beat the Brewers pretty soundly, winning five-of-six. Can the presence of Sabathia, who is only scheduled to pitch one game — Game Two — make a difference for the Brewers in the post season?

Brewers, Phillies

Areas of Interest
Pat Burrell’s back. After experiencing some discomfort yesterday, Burrell says he’s good to go today. Something to keep an eye on, however. Backs are finicky like that. Ben Sheets’ elbow. Is he going to make the Brewers’ post season? Nope. What about Ryan Howard? In 12 post season at bats, he has seven strikeouts, about what you’d expect considering his incredible plate discipline. However, against Milwaukee this season, he’s hitting a respectable .263 with only 5 strikeouts in 19 at bats. He also has two home runs and seven RBI during that same stretch.

I’m sure Charlie Manuel would be dancing in the streets if Howard can reproduce that kind of output.

Game 1 Starting Pitchers
For Milwaukee, Yovani Gallardo (0-0, 1.88 ERA) versus Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09 ERA). An odd move for the Brewers but we’ll see how it pays off.

Prediction
An entertaining series with the Phillies winning in four.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California versus the Boston Red Sox
The team with the best regular season in baseball versus the defending World Champions. Can the Angels do something about their nine-game post season losing streak Boston has handed them? Will K-Rod scream, yell, praise God, turn into Linda Blair during The Exorcist and save the Angels to the ALCS? Or will Big Papi deposit those pitches into the stratosphere? The Angels are a complete team, but everybody seems to be picking the Red Sox.

Red Sox, Angels

Areas of Interest
A few injuries for the Red Sox to keep an eye on, but the main story here is, after owning them in the regular season, can the Angels reverse their postseason fortunes against the Sox?

Game 1 Starting Pitchers
Jon Lester (16-6, 3.21 ERA) for the Sox and John Lackey (12-5, 3.75 ERA) for the Los Angeles Angels somewhere in Anaheim, California.

Prediction
Going against the grain here — Angels in four.