ARLINGTON, Texas -- When the playoffs started, I was asked to predict the entire MLB playoffs (like filling out the NCAA tournament bracket). In that scenario, I went with the Yankees over the Rangers in 6.
But after watching the playoffs the last week, talking to players from both teams and analyzing some things, I've changed my mind. I'm taking the Rangers in 7. Here are some reasons why:
* I think the Rangers' home playoff winless streak ends this weekend. They split these two games in Arlington and head to New York with Cliff Lee on the mound in Game 3. That's a huge advantage, considering the Rangers would likely be up 2-1 and put a bunch of pressure on the Yankees.
* There's been talk about how it hurts the Rangers that they don't get Lee in Games 1 and 5, pretty much guaranteeing he'd pitch twice in the series. I understand that. But C.J. Wilson is capable of matching CC Sabathia and if the Yankees don't win both of these games in Arlington, they are likely to be down 2-1 in the series because Lee is on the mound.
* With the Yankees down 2-1 in the series, they're scheduled to run A.J. Burnett out for Game 4 against Tommy Hunter. Those are two pitchers who are a bit unpredictable (Hunter struggled some in his first postseason start and Burnett was OK in a simulated game after struggling down the stretch of the regular season). Game 4 could be a toss-up and those odds would worry the team down 2-1 more than the team up 2-1.
* The Yankee lineup is solid from top to bottom. And they will do some damage in this series, making life tough on the Rangers' pitchers at times. But the Rangers lineup can do some damage too. I think that makes for some interesting theater and an extremely close series.
* This could also come down to the bullpens. The Rangers have added some left-handed arms to counter the Yankees left-handed hitters. The Yankees have Mariano Rivera, a postseason master. The Rangers have Neftali Feliz as closer, maybe a young version of Rivera, but one that is still green and looked nervous in the ALDS. Feliz has to bounce back when he gets the ball again after a shaky Game 3 in the ALDS. He was able to do that after rough outings in the regular season and I think he'll do it now.
* The Yankees were having trouble against left-handed starters in the final few weeks of the season before the Twins series. That could mean an edge for Wilson, Lee and the group of lefties the Rangers have in the bullpen. They can play the matchup game and make life more difficult on this strong Yankees lineup.
* But to me, this is a tight series that goes the distance. And I think Cliff Lee will go in that Game 7 and win it for the Rangers in Arlington.
Give me your predictions.