Sports Column

After a tumultuous end to his relationship with the Boston Red Sox organization, Manny Ramirez could meet his former team on the grandest stage in baseball. The Dodgers, carried on the back of their free-spirited left-fielder, have the World Series in sight as they face the offensive-minded Philadelphia Phillies for the National League Championship. It will be tough for the boys from the West Coast to pull this series out, but the Dodgers have a strong lineup from top to bottom and possess a hard-throwing bullpen that can overcome the power of a Ryan Howard or a Chase Utley.

How are the Phillies going to deal with Manny for the rest of the series? Ramirez has simply been a monster for L.A. this postseason, hitting .450 with a trio of dingers and 8 RBI’s through Sunday. And if you decide to pitch around this powerhouse, either James Loney, Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp will certainly make you pay for it.

Manny Ramirez is probably the greatest right-handed hitter of the last 30 years and only becomes a tougher out come postseason play, as his 27 home runs sit atop the all-time playoff record books. Since his exit from Boston, Manny has played the game with newfound energy and is hustling around the bases like an excited little-leaguer; Red Sox fans all over the country must be wondering where this came from.

The Phillies were in command after the first two games of the NLCS, but this series has only just begun. The boys in blue pulverized Philadelphia starter Jamie Moyer in Game 3 by scoring six runs in the first two innings and won 7-2.

If the Dodgers want to make their first World Series in 20 years, they need a better pitching performance from 16-game winner Chad Billingsley, who lasted only two innings and gave up eight earned runs in Game 2. The inexperience of Billingsley took away any chance of a split in Philadelphia, but this kid can redeem himself with a strong Game 5 outing in Los Angeles today.

Like its counterpart, the American League Championship is exhibiting its fair share of excitement and might go six or seven games.

The Red Sox proved they could win in Tampa Bay by taking the opening game, while the Rays showed poise after outlasting the Sox in an 11-inning slugfest thanks to B.J. Upton’s game-winning sacrifice fly. Boston did what they had to do with a split on the road and head to Fenway with the series in a deadlock, but now it’s the former cellar dweller’s turn to battle away from home.

Soon-to-be AL MVP Dustin Pedroia will be counted on to get Boston’s offense going in these deciding games, but the pitching of Josh Beckett has to be a significant worry for Red Sox nation. Beckett, sporting a lifetime playoff record of 7-0 with an unbelievable 2.85 ERA, was rocked in both postseason outings this year for a combined 12 earned runs. While the injuries must still be lingering for Beckett, the defending champs will not beat Tampa Bay without his production.

Major League Baseball would love nothing more than a World Series between the Dodgers and Red Sox. The publicity and subplots for this potential seven-game series would be endless, whether the focus is on Manny, Lowe and Nomar against the Red Sox or the managerial rivalry between Joe Torre and Tito Francona.

If these two teams win their respective Championship Series, Manny Ramirez will make the Red Sox wish they never traded him to get Jason Bay.

Bold Prediction of the week: The college football season will have another shocker and the top-ranked Texas Longhorns will lose at home to Missouri.

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