NL division series
Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants
About the Reds: After their beloved manager, Dusty Baker, suffered a health scare with an irregular heartbeat and mild stroke while in Chicago, the Reds are ready to win for Dusty. The offense slumped badly in September, perhaps bringing back bad memories of the 2010 division series in which Cincinnati was swept by the Phillies. Closer Aroldis Chapman is back after getting a late-season rest because of shoulder fatigue, and Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto bounced back after losing his first 3 starts of September. If the Reds can get a lead early, they have the best bullpen in baseball. Jay Bruce hit 12 home runs in 44 games and carried the load while Joey Votto was out with a knee injury.
Standout stat: The Reds boast four starting pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched and 12 wins apiece.
Did you know? Cincinnati was 60-8 in games they used Aroldis Chapman.
About the Giants: Even though they're the lower seed, the Giants will get the first two games at home, with the final three, if necessary, in Cincinnati. Matt Cain gets the ball in Game 1, meaning it's a different world for the Giants. In 2010, Tim Lincecum won the opener in all three postseason series the Giants played en route a world title. Lincecum was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA this year, and he may work out of the bullpen in Game 1 or Game 2. Catcher Buster Posey won the NL batting title (. 336), but will the Reds allow Posey to beat them? Manager Bruce Bochy is considered one of the steadiest skippers in the game. The Giants have been going with a closer-by-committee system with Brian Wilson recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Standout stat: Former ace Tim Lincecum led the NL in runs allowed (111) and earned runs (107).
Did you know? Buster Posey is the first catcher to lead the NL in batting average since Ernie Lombardi (1942).
Ex-Chicago factor: Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker has two coaches on his Reds staff from his days in Chicago: Chris Speier and Juan Lopez. Lefty Sean Marshall picked up 9 saves and 22 holds and remains one of the top left-handed setup men in baseball. Infielder Miguel Cairo spent two stints with the Cubs. Ryan Theriot has been on postseason teams with the Cubs, Cardinals and now the Giants. Angel Pagan, a Cub in 2006 and 2007, led the NL in triples this year with 15 for the Giants.
Bruce Miles' prediction: Giants in four games
AL division series
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A's
About the Tigers:They trailed the White Sox by 1 game in the AL Central on Sept. 24 before winning eight of their last 11 and finishing first in the AL Central for the second straight year. Miguel Cabrera deserves to be voted MVP after winning the Triple Crown. Last year's MVP and Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander, had another standout season (17-8, 2.64 RA). Verlander (239) and rotation mate Max Scherzer (231) ranked 1-2 in baseball in strikeouts. Cabrera and Prince Fielder combined for 74 home runs and 247 RBI. The Tigers finished third in the AL with a 3.75 ERA and sixth with 726 runs scored.
About the A's:Oakland came from out of nowhere to pass the Texas Rangers and finish first in the AL West, winning six straight to close the season. The A's are scheduled to start rookies Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone in Games 1 and 2. The duo combined for 26 wins in the regular season. Oakland ranked second in the AL with a 3.48 ERA and second to last with a .238 team batting average. The A's were 3-4 in their season series vs. Detroit.
Did you know?The Tigers swept the A's in the 2006 ALCS.
Standout stat:Miguel Cabrera is the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat in 1967 while playing for the Boston Red Sox. A's left fielder Yoenis Cespedes had 7 home runs and 19 RBI in September.
Ex-Chicago factor:Tigers: Octavio Dotel (White Sox). A's: Brandon McCarthy-DL (White Sox).
Scot Gregor's prediction:A's in five games