Sabathia vs Verlander tonight

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia waits to catch fly balls during workout day before their MLB American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers begins at Yankee Stadium in New York, September 29, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Baseball fans are still buzzing over the stunning ending to the Wild Card races, and now we have a marquee pitching match-up to kick off the series between the Yankees and Tigers.

C.C. Sabathia has had his troubles in the post-season, though he did lead the Yankees to a World Series title. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander has had one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory. Let’s see who rises to the occasion . . .

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Terry Francona done in Boston

Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona argues with umpire Larry Vanover (R) during a break in play against the Toronto Blue Jays during the seventh inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto, in this file image from July 10, 2010. Francona’s eight-year run as Red Sox manager ended September 30, 2011 when the team announced he was not returning next season. Francona, nicknamed Tito, led the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004 — ending a championship drought dating back to 1918 – and again in 2007, but speculation about his future increased after the Red Sox missed this season’s playoffs after a dramatic late season collapse. Picture taken July 10, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/Files (CANADA – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

I’m not really sure what to make of this. Terry Francona won two World Series titles, and it seems silly to get rid of a great manager after one epic collapse. On the other hand, Francona seems exhausted, and maybe he didn’t want to come back that badly.

That said, I think the Boston owners are making a mistake here. It’s hard to make rational decisions one day after such an emotional end to the season. They all might have reached the same decision a week from now, but taking some time to think about this makes sense to me.

MLB Playoff predictions from the guy who said the Red Sox would win the World Series

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Roy Halladay (L) and catcher Carlos Ruiz celebrate after Halladay’s no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the MLB National League Division Series baseball playoffs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 6, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

My 2011 MLB season predictions were a little off this year.

I said the A’s would win the AL West and they actually finished 22 games out of first.

I said the White Sox would win the AL Central and they just traded their manager to another team, which sums up how well they did this year.

I said the Giants would repeat as National League champions and in doing so I cursed Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Freddy Sanchez and the 900 other players they placed on the DL this season.

I had the Braves winning the NL Wild Card and we all know how that turned out. Yiiiiiikes.

While I did have the Phillies winning the NL East and the Yankees making the postseason as the AL Wild Card, those were gimmies. My only claim to fame was predicting the Brewers to win the NL Central, although when you have the Red Sox winning the World Series and they don’t even make the postseason you have no right to brag about anything.

So if you’re offended by my postseason predictions below, don’t be. Chances are I’ll be wrong anyway.

ALDS: Yankees over Tigers.
I don’t trust the Yankees’ pitching but I trust it more than I trust Doug Fister. Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in the American League this season but he’s had a knack for coming up short on the road throughout the years. Knowing the Yankees they’ll be down in every game of this series and figure out some way to advance. Derek Jeter will be 16-for-18 with 11 doubles and one game-winning home run or something ridiculous.

NLDS: Phillies over Cardinals.
The Phillies did the Cardinals a favor by beating Atlanta but if I were them, I would have wanted the downtrodden Braves to advance. That team would have just been happy to reach the postseason after a miserable September. Nevertheless, the Phillies’ pitching will dominate the hot-and-cold St. Louis lineup and the Cardinals’ pitching will fail them in Philadelphia. They’ve got Edwin Jackson slated to start Game 2 in that bandbox the Phillies’ call a stadium, which should work out well considering he’s a fly ball pitcher. (Read: sarcasm.)

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2011 NFL Week 4 Primer

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz reacts on the sidelines during the second half of their NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Detroit, Michigan December 20, 2009. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Panthers @ Bears, 1:00PM ET
Jay Cutler admitted on Wednesday that the pressure he’s facing on a weekly basis is starting to affect him. This of course prompted ESPN’s “First Take” to discuss whether or not there is too much crying coming from quarterbacks. You know what? I’m with Cutler. The offensive line has one job to do in pass protection: Protect the quarterback. If the front five isn’t doing their job then how does anyone believe Cutler can do his?

Bills @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET
If I’m a Bills fan I’m on top of the world right now but I’d also be a little leery about this Sunday. You’re coming off an emotion come-from-behind win against the Patriots last week at home and now you have to travel to Cincinnati to play a Bengals team that is more competitive than people think. Don’t get me wrong: this is a game Buffalo should win. But beware the letdown.

Titans @ Browns, 1:00PM ET
Apparently the Titans are considering splitting out Chris Johnson more as a receiver in the weeks ahead. Hey Tennessee, how about you figure out why Johnson is only rushing for 2.1 yards per carry at his normal position before trying him out at another one?

Lions @ Cowboys, 1:0oPM ET
After surrendering 20 points to the Vikings in the first half last week by blitzing heavily, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said his defense is unlikely to send extra defenders in Week 4. Of course, if Cowboys’ center Phil Costa is as bad snapping the ball on Sunday as he was on Monday night against the Redskins, the Lions won’t need to blitz much.

Vikings @ Chiefs, 1:00PM ET
When asked on Wednesday how his team is going to fix the struggles it’s been having in the second half of games, Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier responded with: “There’s a second half?”

Redskins @ Rams, 1:00PM ET
It’s funny, in preseason this was the only game on the Rams’ brutal first-half schedule that people figured would be a sure win. But Washington is 2-1 and certainly has enough offensive firepower to hand St. Louis its fourth straight loss. (Not that that “firepower” showed up in Dallas on Monday night.)

49ers @ Eagles, 1:00PM ET
Michael Vick is 100% sure that he’s going to play this Sunday against the 49ers. He’s about 10% sure that he’s going to finish it, however.

Saints @ Jaguars, 1:00PM ET
With so much attention being paid to the feel-good Lions and Bills, hardly anyone is talking about how the Saints have scored 30-plus points in all three of their games this year. I’m telling you: Don’t sleep on New Orleans this year. They have issues on defense but this is a Super Bowl-caliber team again.

Steelers @ Texans, 1:00PM ET
Here’s a perfect opportunity for the Texans to notch that one signature win that can build confidence in them the rest of the season. They nearly knocked off the Saints last weekend in New Orleans before running out of gas in the fourth quarter. With Arian Foster set to return this week, a win over the Steelers could do wonders for a team that still hasn’t proven that it belongs among the top teams in the AFC.

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Red Sox complete epic collapse

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon reacts after giving up the game tying run to the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Baltimore, Maryland September 28, 2011.Papelbon was the losing pitcher in the game. REUTERS/Joe Giza (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Last night will go down as one of the most riveting nights in the history of Major League Baseball’s regular season. Two wild card races came down to the last game, with the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves trying to avoid disaster.

For a while, things were looking pretty good for the Red Sox. The Rays were down 7-0 to the Yankees, and the Sox were clinging to a one-run lead in the 7th against the Orioles. And then the rains came. We’re always prone to look for meaning in random events, but when a team is staring down the worst September collapse in baseball history, a dreary rain delay seemed like a really bad sign.

By the time the night was over, Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon had given up the lead, and the Rays completed an incredible comeback to beat the Yankees in extra innings.

They’ll be talking about this one for a while. Here’s Scott Lauber from The Boston Herald:

It has been a slow, month-long march to baseball’s version of death — elimination from playoff contention — for the Red Sox.

Last night, it became pure torture.

One out from guaranteeing the Red Sox no less than a play-in game today against the Tampa Bay Rays, closer Jonathan Papelbon melted down. He allowed three consecutive hits, including a game-tying double by Nolan Reimold and a game-winning single by Robert Andino in a 4-3 loss.

Then, a few minutes after Papelbon and the Red Sox trudged off the field at Camden Yards, Evan Longoria belted a solo homer in the 12th inning at Tropicana Field. After trailing the New York Yankees 7-0 in the eighth, the Rays won 8-7.

And, with that, the Best Team Ever suffered the Worst Collapse Ever.

Lauber points out that no team has ever missed the playoffs with a lead as large as 9 games in September. The Braves managed to come close to the Boston choke job by blowing an 8 and 1/2 game lead in the National League.

Papelbon has always been a loudmouth, so watching him blow it was pretty entertaining. His post-game news conference is equally satisfying.

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