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Baseball's playoffs heating up

With the first week of the Major League Baseball playoffs gone and done with, the stage is now set for the League Championships.

In the National League, itís the New York Mets pitted against the St. Louis Cardinals. New York swept the Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis knocked out the San Diego Padres.

In the American League, the Detroit Tigers will take on the Oakland Athletics. The Tigers took out the Hall of Fame lineup of the New York Yankees, and the Aís swept the red-hot Minnesota Twins.

Despite losing their number one starter, Pedro Martinez, the Metsí powerful lineup blew right through the Dodgers with clutch hitting and a strong bullpen headlined by Billy Wagner, who pitched the last inning in each of the three games and recorded two saves. New York knocked off Greg Maddux in Game Three, scoring three runs in the first inning and holding on to get a 9-5 victory and complete the sweep.

The St. Louis Cardinals won their series against San Diego behind the arm of defending Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter. Carpenter (15-8 3.09 ERA) pitched in the first and last games of the series, winning both games with a combined 13.1 innings pitched and a 2.02 ERA.

The Cards are now appearing in their third straight NLCS, so they have that advantage over the inexperienced Mets. The explosive offense of the Mets was third in run production this season, and they hope to overpower the Cardinals in the upcoming series.

Coming into the postseason, few foresaw the events that took place this past week. The Yankees had the best record in baseball to go along with their stacked lineup, but it was the Detroit Tigers who out-dueled the high-powered offense of the Dream-Team New York Yankees.

Making their first postseason appearance since 1987, the Tigers took the series 3-1. They were carried all season long by pitching, and the Division Series was no different. The Tigers did lose the first game 8-4, but allowed only six runs over the next three games, including one shutout.

Equally incredible was the other AL Division Series, which saw the Oakland Athletics sweep the highly favored Minnesota Twins. Oakland won the weak West, while the Twins topped the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox and the Tigers, who had the divisional lead until the final day of the season, for the AL Central crown.

The Twins had Johan Santana, the likely Cy Young Award winner, on the mound in Game 1, but he was out-pitched by Barry Zito of the Aís.

Weíll have to see how the NLCS and ALCS play out, but Iím officially on the Detroit bandwagon. Iím pulling for the Tigers, who just three years ago finished 43-119. Thatís eighteen more losses than the last place team from this year, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

I like the New York Mets to come out of the National League. St. Louis has the experience, but the Mets have been the best team in the National League all season long, and the Cardinals looked sloppy at the end of the season, which almost cost them their division. If nothing else, though, the rest of these playoffs will certainly be interesting.

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