NHL Conference Quarterfinals was an action packed fan thrill ride. There were many great games and a couple of stunning upsets. Montreal knocked out #1 seed Washington in 7 games. Washington's best regular season team in franchise history folded to pressure packed playoff hockey. Boston blindsided Buffalo in 6. New Jersey's coach Lemaire quit after a stunning 5 game defeat to rival Flyers.
Time for the Conference SemiFinal round. Pittsburgh is the East's most potent and balanced. Anything can happen in the West. Boston vs Philadelphia brings back vivid memories of their 1970's era playoff matchups. Talk about a hard hitting series from second to second. Chicago vs Vancouver back in the 70's had plenty of long penalty filled boxscores too. Let the battles continue. Prediction time (correctly picked 5 of 8 opening round games)...
Pittsburgh over Montreal in 5
Boston over Philadelphia in 6
Detroit over San Jose in 7
Chicago over Vancouver in 7
New York's (13-9) sweep of LA put the finishing touches on a 9-1 homestand. Is the Magic back? Seven consecutive victories enabled New York to climb the NL East ladder all the way to the top. Holding onto first place may be only temporary unless these guys can carry their recently created magic down to Philadelphia for a crucial early season 3 game series in Citizens Bank Park.
The Mets were left for dead by most before spring training ended. Question marks remained everywhere from the front office down to reserve players and coaches. The first dozen games left fans wondering if this team was ready to challenge 100 losses. Injuries blossomed before one game was played. One of those players hurt is starting 1B Murphy. Not a household name by any means but his bat was expected to contribute for lineup lacking left handed pop. Murphy's replacements failed miserably. The Mets didn't waste much time deciding it was time to bring up their future star firstbaseman.
Introducing Ike Davis. An instant sensation was born in Flushing. The Mets won 9 of 10. Defense has improved. Pitching improved. Offense doing just enough to win ball games. Like Ike? New Yorker's are going crazy over their new hero. In 10 games Davis is batting .355, 3 2B's, 1 HR, 6 RBI. A massive improvement over platooning Mike Jacobs (.208) and Fernando Tatis (.214).
New York's seven game streak comes at a perfect time. Red hot Mets players head to play hated division rival and co-leading Philadelphia (13-9). These teams do not like each other. Plenty of barbs traded between players on and off the field in recent years. Philly's lineup packs a mean punch. It's stacked with run producers. Phillies starters haven't settled into groves yet. Anything can happen this weekend. Will Mets magic go poof? Or, does Philadelphia have something to worry about?
Perhaps ambush is a mild understatement. Milwaukee Brewers hitters have destroyed Pirates pitchers this season. After only four games vs Bucs pitchers in baseball's opening month Brewers batters have piled up 53 runs. 8-1, 8-0, 20-0 in Pittsburgh. Tonight, 17-3 opening game demolition in Milwaukee. Good grief Charlie Brown!
Milwaukee owns division rival Pittsburgh. 37-12 since 2007 including 22 straight in Miller Park. Rarely has a team been this abused. The Pirates young roster has been given a strong dose on humility. It's sad for Pirates fans now lacking a reason to fill seats at PNC. Pittsburgh's front office must be stunned at April's abysmal pitching performances. Bucs hurlers are walking batters at alarming rates. 88 walks in 164 innings. Throw in 208 hits and it's amazing these guys actually won their first seven of twelve. The tide has turned. Bucs are sinking fast losing seven straight with two more in Milwaukee before heading west to play Los Angeles.
Brewers (9-10) fortunes have been plentiful vs Pittsburgh (4-0) but not good against the other NL teams (5-10). Over confidence and poor pitching led to dropping 3 straight lopsided games in Chicago after outscoring Pit 36-1. The Brew Crew heads west after Wednesday's game for a 10 game road trip to San Diego, LA and Arizona. A big test awaits against three strong staffs. Milwaukee has plenty of hype to live up to. Their west coast swing will go a long way in determining whether these guys are contenders or pretenders.
Tampa Bay owns baseball's best record (14-5). Secret to success early on in 2010 has been pitching. Staffs fairing well have led their teams to baseball's best won/loss records. The following power rankings are based on 20 games played, not projections.
1- Tampa Bay (14-5) - Doing nearly everything right.
2- NY Yankees (13-6) - AL's best lineup and stellar pitching.
3- Minnesota (13-6) - Finding ways to win.
4- Philadelphia (11-7) - NL's top lineup saving inconsistant pitching.
5- Oakland (12-8) - AL's biggest surprises led by 2.93 staff ERA.
6- San Francisco (10-8) - Lincecum working on 3rd consecutive Cy Young.
7- San Diego (11-7) - NL's biggest surprise led by 2.87 staff ERA.
8- St Louis (11-7) - MLB best 2.72 staff ERA making up for punchless attack.
9- Colorado (10-9) - Solid overall team stats not translating into victories.
10- Cubs (9-10) - Zambrano out of rotation. Lineup scoring. Cubs starting to win.