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The National League Playoffs: The Three Aces

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A good rule of thumb might be that anyone who says they know what's going to happen in the National League playoffs doesn't, but here are some things we do know.

The Phillies are the best team in the National League, and on those grounds you would think, the favorite to win the Pennant. However, the Phillies are also a team that can go mysteriously dead at any given time for no particular reason: a great team but a flawed team.

So, factoring in the Phillies' unpredictability, there are two reasons to pick them to win.

The first is the humility factor.

The Phillies came out of Spring Training knowing they were the team to beat in the National League only to have the wheels come off in May. After an unbelievable series of injuries and slumps left the team adrift in the doldrums of mid season, local sportswriters and fans pretty much wrote off the team for this year.

On July 21, the Phillies, who finished 97-64, were only two games over .500, at 48-46 and in third place behind the Braves and the Mets. And not only were they in third place but the injuries in particular at that point seemed endemic; Chase Utley, out for seven weeks, Jimmy Rollins missing half the season with three different injuries, Placido Polanco on the disabled list, then coming back and actually playing through a broken elbow. On and on it went.

The reason for the Phillies' humility then is that they pretty much had the arrogance knocked out of them this season. At this point they are happy just to be in the playoffs, and for a team with as much sheer ability as the Phillies, that kind of hunger and focus is going to make them hard to beat.

The other reason to pick the Phillies over the Cincinnati Reds in the first round has to be The Three Aces.

Philly will open the series with probable National League Cy Young award winner, Big Roy Halladay facing Edinson Volquez, back with the Reds after losing a year and a half to Tommy John surgery.

Game 2 is scheduled to feature little Roy, Roy Oswalt, pitching for the Phillies against one-time Boston Red Sox 4th starter, Bronson Arroyo.

The first game in Cincinnati will feature 2008 World Series hero Young Cole Hamels vs. Johnny Cueto for Reds.

Nothing against any of the three Reds starters: They are all good pitchers, but the Three Aces of the Phillies have the pitching match-up advantage over the Reds in each game of these playoffs. Especially since, if the Series goes to games 4 and 5, the Phillies are going to come back with Halladay in game 4 and Oswalt -- the team's best pitcher down the stretch -- in game 5.

The Reds' strength is their offense led by potential National League MVP Joey Votto, and they certainly have a hitter's chance. Personally I wouldn't be surprised if this Series goes the full five games, but as a Phillies fan, I'm hoping for the Phils in four.

In the other National League first-round series, the Braves vs. the Giants, the Giants should win on their superior offense, especially as it's been bulked up by mid and late season acquisitions such as Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross, and the very recent return to form by last year's Rookie sensation, third baseman Pablo "the Panda" Sandoval.

In a short series, the Braves' starting pitching is at least as strong as the Giants and their bullpen probably better, but on the strength of the Giants' offense as well as home field advantage, gotta take the Giants, in five.

But like the man said, I don't know nothing.

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