Shirls#1 Braves vs. #8 Phils
Don't count the last place Phillies out of anything just quite yet.  As awesome as the Braves bats have been in 2004, they haven't had much luck against any of the top pitchers in the HRL. (They've averaged a measly 2 runs/game vs. Shirls, Truck, and Pirate combined). The Tribe leads the season series at 5-1, but they better not count on their credentials to guarantee their playoff success. The Blunt's ace, Bryan Shirls, only pitched in two of those regular season games, split with a win and a loss, and when he did lose, it was 2-1 on a early game throwing error. Still, what's really going to decide this series isn't either of these two teams claim to fame. Shirls arm will offset the Braves huge offensive numbers and keep it respectable, but in the end, this one will be all about the Braves pitching. The Rocket-Sanchez duo has been on an absolute tear as of late. Since July, the pair has a combined 2.6 ERA and boasts an impressive 14-4 record.  Even if the Braves only put up a deuce against Shirls, there's still a chance their pitching will carry them through.

Prediction?  Braves lose the first, but get revenge and sweep to make it to Round 2.

Cota#2 Yankees vs. #7 Brewers
A week ago, this match-up didn't seem like it had a snowball's chance in hell of working out. The Bombers slid into the second spot after the A's got swept by the X on Wednesday night, and the Crew inched past the Phils to climb out of the gutter with a Twins' split on Monday.  Now, the HRL's two most hated franchises are set to go at it toof-n-nail.  The Yanks lay claim to the series bragging rights, winning 3 of 4 games this season.  Their success has been due in large part to all-star, Josh Luis Dick Cheater Cota.  "College-ball" has dominated the Crew in his two starts against the club.  He has only allowed 5 runs on 4 hits, with 15 strikeouts, in his combined 12 innings of work. But things get even worse, because in addition to Cota's dominance on the mound, the Yanks appear to be playing T-ball every time they face off against the Booze-boys. Averaging nearly 9 runs and 4 ding-dongs per game, whatever the Crew's staff throws; it just looks like MEAT to these sluggers.  This series could get real ugly, real fast…spelling a potential early exit and resulting in a Brewer's "sportsmanship" award. The holy hand grenade in the Crew's back-pocket? Yankee's management must have been too busy counting their money last week, when they pitched Cota in the team's second game.  Now ineligible to pitch in the first playoff, it looks like the Crew will only have to face their nemesis in one of the three game set. If the Crew's bats are working, it could spell an unlikely UPSET for the #2 seed.


J-Ski#3 A's vs. #6 Expos
Behind the pitching of Pirate and Mathis, the A's have been near the top of ranks all year long.  They're extremely solid, and only have a losing record against two HRL teams; the Royals..and ya better believe it…the frickin Expos!  Worse than just a losing record, is the fact that X actually swept the A's in their 4 game regular series showdown.  There couldn't have been another team on the table the Athletics would have rather not faced in the first round, than the once hapless X. But these aren't your papa's Expos.  No sir. After finally finding what works on the hill, in the form of J-ski and Brandt, the Expos stopped giving up 8 runs a game (first 8 games) and settled into allowing just 3 per outing (last 16 games). Since then, they've been a force.  Although the A's pitching baffles many a would-be-batter, the X-men seems to just lick their lips at the stead diet of tricky curveballs that are offered. Jamie, the greatly overlooked MVP candidate, just eats the A's alive, accentuating his season on Wednesday with an amazing 8 HR showing. After the smack down this week, it's hard to imagine the A's getting refocused in time for next week's battle. 

Prediction? The X own the A's, and sweep for a second round berth.

Truck#4 Royals vs. #5 Twins
Ya just couldn't ask for a better #4 vs. #5 match-up.  The Twins and Royals have both shown flashes of greatness throughout the year, but lack of consistency and injuries has left them both dangling around the .500 mark.  The season was split 2-2 between these clubs, and they both look to have the final say next Monday afternoon. HRL Cy-wiffle favorite, Pat the Commish, will undoubtedly take the rock for the Royals in both the 1st and 3rd games of the set. That fact alone makes the Royals the favorite in this one, as Truck's stingy 1.10 ERA and 0.75 WHIP often makes even the best hitting teams look downright silly. But the Twins just happen to be that best hitting team, checking in with a near .290 combined team batting average.  So, if anyone can hit Moriarty, it should be these guys…and they've done it before. Just two weeks ago, the Twinks handed Truck only his 3rd loss on the season. Additionally, some have questioned the endurance of the Royals' ace, and all eyes will be on the mound if this series goes to the third game.  Will Truck's stuff be as dominate after a full day of booze, brats, and sun?? For the Twinks sake, they better hope not. 

Prediction?  Truck carries the Royals on his golden arm…Twins split, but can't hold on, and leave the dance early.

Joe Lawrence is an HRL:TC writer as well as a player for the Brewers.  Comments or questions can be addressed to Joe at the Message Board.

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