Division series preview 10/4/11

With their close wins on Monday, Texas and Detroit have taken control of their respective American League series.

To stave off elimination, Tampa Bay will send Jeremy Hellickson to the hill against formidable lefty Matt Harrison. Harrison’s 2.99 ERA this season away from Arlington makes him a worthy adversary for players like Desmond Jennings, whose two homers kept the Rays around in game three.

But Hellickson’s sterling numbers are even better this season at Tropicana Field, where he sports a 2.54 ERA in 99.1 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .205 average. Joe Maddon must be comfortable with sending “Hellboy” out to stave off elimination for the Rays.

After former Rays top pick Delmon Young smacked a solo homer in the seventh inning off former Rays closer Rafael Soriano, Detroit took a 2-1 lead over the vaunted Yankees. New York’s worst fears are now realized in that they have to start the inconsistent A.J. Burnett facing elimination. However, Tigers Game Four starter Rick Porcello has not been much better at Comerica Park than Burnett has been on the road this season.

Game Four Starters
	         IP	Record  ERA	WHIP	K/9	   
Burnett - Road	 76	4-5     6.28	1.63	8.2	   
Porcello - Home	 83	5-5     5.64	1.48	5.1

Based on these stats, it should be a slugfest in the Motor City today, which would be welcome news for the Yankees after its third through sixth hitters in Monday’s order went a combined 0-14. But the key is clearly Burnett, with an Everest-sized mountain of pressure on him to succeed and earn his massive contract.

In the National League, Milwaukee has won the first two games at home to take a commanding 2-0 series lead going to Phoenix. Arizona will throw 25-year-old starter Josh Collmenter into the fray for his first career postseason start, but there is certainly room for optimism for D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. Collmenter has thrown 14 shutout innings against the Brewers this season and will look to continue his success on Tuesday.

In the other matchup, St. Louis scored five runs off Cliff Lee in a 5-4 Game Two win that surprisingly leaves the series knotted at one going back to the Gateway City.

The pitching matchup for Tuesday’s game three is one of the best you’ll see for any third game of a playoff series. For Philadelphia, Cole Hamels is 7-3 with a 2.93 ERA on the road this season, and Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia is 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA at Busch Stadium this season. However, Philadelphia’s top duo of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley has a history of tremendous success in St. Louis, which could lead the Phillies to a series win.

Career @ Busch
 	         PA	   Slash Line	 HR     RBI	 R     XBH	   
Ryan Howard	123	.368/.512/.695	  9	 35	20	13	   
Chase Utley	 91	.351/.440/.506	  2	 12	16	 7

No matter what happens, having all four playoff series going on in the same day will surely make this one memorable October Tuesday.

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