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As the American League Divisional Playoffs get underway on Wednesday, let’s take a look at the match-ups:

New York vs. Minnesota

It seems that this is deja-vu all over again. Haven’t we seen this movie before? As a matter of fact, yes we have. The Minnesota Twins have lost in the first round of their last four playoff appearances, three of which they lost to the Yankees. As good as the Twins were during the regular season, they finished the season 2-8, including getting swept by Detroit and losing 2 of 3 to Kansas City.

Moving into the playoffs, it’s all about who has the momentum, and the Yankees have it. Though they ended the season 3-7, they did it against much tougher opposition in Boston and Tampa Bay. I believe a better match-up to see would have been New York and Texas, because that would force both struggling teams to take on teams on the upswing.

It was reported that AJ Burnett would not be in the three-man rotation which seems to be an addition by subtraction. With the performance that he’s had this season, there is little confidence instilled in him that he could win a baseball game for them in the postseason. For that reason, he will work out of the bullpen.

Obviously the Yankees have a very strong lineup, especially moving into October, with Rodriguez, Cano, Texiera, and, in his last chance to show that he is worth a $20 million per year extension, Derek Jeter.

Minnesota, on the other hand, is more of a small ball team. Joe Mauer is obviously their big bat with Justin Morneau out, to go along with the breakout year of Delmon Young. In the pitching rotation, Francisco Liriano is the only guy in that three that could be put in and win a game for you single-handedly.

In the end, it will be big bats against small ball, and I expect the powerful Yankees to win the series 3-2.

Tampa Bay vs. Texas

The Tampa Bay Rays, holding off the Yankees to win the AL East, actually got the shorter end of the stick going into Round 1 of the playoffs. It seems that the AL West champion Rangers pose a bigger threat to them than the AL Central champion Twins do.

With such big bats as Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, the Rangers are poised to run up the scoreboard if the Rays pitching, led by Cy Young candidate David Price, cannot keep them in check.

The biggest key for the Rangers this season was picking up ace Cliff Lee. Not only is Lee a great pitcher in his own right, but he also brings a great deal of stability to a rotation that is very young. Moving into the postseason, it is tough to say with confidence that the Rangers would be in a position to win if it were not for Lee. He brings the winning attitude and postseason experience that was lacking before his arrival.

On the Rays side, they do not have the overpowering lineup that the Yankees or Rangers have. They are similar in style to the Twins offensively in that they will get guys like Carl Crawford on base and use their big bats to drive runs in. The biggest concern seems to be the rotation where, outside of David Price, there have been inconsistencies. Matt Garza has been up and down this season, a different pitcher from the one we saw in the 2008 run to the World Series. Going up against such a potent lineup, the pitching will need to be on top of its game.

Ultimately, I think the Rangers lineup is too powerful for the Rays to handle. Because Texas has solidified their rotation with Lee, they look to be the better team in this series. I see them winning it 3-2.


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