Double Play: Predicting the NLDS Staff
10/5/2010 3:32:03 PM
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There are a lot of storylines to watch when the National League Division Series begin on Wednesday and Thursday.

Canadian Joey Votto, who could win the National League Most Valuable Player Award, will go head-to-head with another Canadian favourite - former Blue Jay Roy Halladay - when the Reds face the Phillies.

Across the continent, Bobby Cox - who will retire at the end of the playoffs - looks for his second World Series title against the pitching-heavy San Francisco Giants.

Here are some other things to watch in both series, as well as our Double Play Blog predictions.

Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies

This series matches a team that hasn't made the post-season in 15 years, the Reds, with a club that has made it to back-to-back World Series Championships, the Phillies.

The Reds were the topped ranked offense in the National League, and they will need to keep that offense rolling if they are to win the series. Joey Votto (37), Jay Bruce (25), Drew Stubbs (22) and Scott Rolen (20), all topped the 20 home run mark, while second baseman Brandon Phillips hit 18 bombs. Votto is the key to their offence as he's the club's most feared hitter, and if he can get hot, good things can happen for the Reds.

The Reds don't have much playoff experience and Game 1 starter Edinson Volquez, and Game 3 starter Johnny Cueto will be looked to keep the club in the game. If they can't handle the pressure, the series could end quickly. Another rookie in the bullpen is 22-year old Aroldis Chapman, and he could have a David Price circa 2008 breakout. The left-hander recently hit 105 on the radar gun. If the Reds need a key out or two late, Chapman could be the guy to close the door.

In the other dugout, the Phillies boast a fearsome trio of pitchers that have recently been dubbed H20 - Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Hamels was the playoff MVP when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, and Halladay and Oswalt both have very impressive resumes. The Phillies hold a huge advantage in the starting pitching department, and if the Phillies' aces pitch to form, it could be a quick series.

After struggling for parts of the season, closer Brad Lidge has returned to near 2008 form, posting a 2.10 ERA since the All-Star break. Despite those numbers, there's the perception that if the Reds can get to Lidge early in the series, they might be able to exploit the cracks later on.

For once in recent history, there are more concerns about the Phillies offence than the starting pitching. The Phillies were blanked five times in an eight game span over the season and Jimmy Rollins, who missed chunks of the season with injury is battling a sore hamstring. The club still has feared hitters like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, but the group will need to find some consistency.

Prediction: The Reds getting back in the post season is a good story, as is the fact that Canadian Joey Votto has become one of the best hitters in the National League. With that said, it's hard to fathom that the Reds have enough pitching to get past the experienced Phillies. Phillies in 3.

Click here for a complete Reds - Phillies Preview.

Atlanta Braves at San Francisco Giants

Two teams with plenty of pitching and no superstar offensive players meet in the only series that will debut on Thursday.

The key storyline to the series and what will be the key factor for whichever team wins is starting pitching. The Giants boast an impressive young trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez in the first three games, while the Braves will counter with Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson. The Giants have the edge in pure stuff, while the Braves' unit has the post-season experience advantage.

Offensively, the Giants are anchored by 33-year old Aubrey Huff, who had a very good season, hitting .290 with 26 home runs, and 23-year old Buster Posey, who hit 18 home runs and batted .305 in 108 games. Outside of those two, the Giants have a bunch of parts that occasionally come up big like Edgar Renteria, Freddy Sanchez and Pat Burrell. The performance of Pablo Sandoval could be the difference maker. Sandoval is hitting only .268 on the season with 13 home runs. He's also posted one of the most unusual home/road splits in recent memory, hitting .330 in San Francisco and only .208 everywhere else.

Much like the questions about the Giants offence, the Braves are facing many of the same issues. With Chipper Jones injured, the club is lacking a true hitting threat in their lineup. Catcher Brian McCann and Derrek Lee, who is coming of a sub par season will need to help carry the offence as star rookie Jason Heyward won't be able to do it on his own.

Prediction: While in a lot of ways these clubs are mirror images, the youth of the Giants will carry the day. Giants in 4.

Click here for a complete Braves - Giants Preview.

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