This edition hits closer to home because it reminds me that the Cubs are, yet again, absent from the list of participants. Nonetheless, here are my opinions on the four teams that will be battling it out for the NL pennant.

Each time I think about the fact that the Astros will be opening up their 2005 playoff series on Wednesday I think about how easily that could have been the Cubs. The Astros were brutal in the first third to half of the season and were virtually counted out. All of a sudden they start winning and put it all together to win the Wild Card. It’s frustrating to see them do it two years in a row when both times it could have easily been the Cubs. I think the Houston Atlanta series is the most intriguing for me in terms of pitching matchups. There are 5 big names taking the mound in this series in Pettitte, Clemens, Oswalt, Hudson and Smoltz. All of those guys are primetime pitchers and should make for an exciting series. I give the edge slightly to the Astros simply because their rotation is deeper than the Braves. It’s not too often that you can say someone is deeper than the Braves in the SP department, but I think the Astros fit the bill.

I find the Atlanta Braves postseason scene rather entertaining. It’s gotten to the point now that Atlanta fans have become bored with the Braves making the postseason. The only reason I know this for sure is the ease of buying playoff tickets. Two years ago I was able to secure very nice playoff tickets 3 days after they went on sale. In fact, there were tickets still on sale at game time. At Wrigley, however, tickets went quick and forced fans to travel to Atlanta and Florida just to see a game. This year I think the Braves have a balanced attack offensively and I am interested in seeing if that works better for them in October. I think it will.

Series Pick – Braves in 5

This is by far the best team in the Major Leagues and I fully expect them to win the World Series this year. There is no way Tony Larussa gets them there again and has a collapse of epic proportions like last year. This year his team will be solid straight through to the end. They are just too deep in all facets of the game and should figure to breeze through the playoffs.

These guys have no business being in the playoffs. When you look at how weak their record was, you can make the case that teams like Philly or Florida deserve the ticket to play in October far more than the San Diego Padres. I would like to take the time to revisit the predictions that I made in the beginning of the season and gloat that I did pick the Padres to win their division, along with all 5 other division winners that I correctly picked. If I could just nail down this Wild Card mess, i’d be in business. All that aside, look for San Diego to lay down and die in the first round.

Series Pick – St. Louis in an easy 3

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail