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MLB AL Divisional Series Predictions

Christian De Block, Michael Seitz, and Tom Seipp take a look and preview the two American League Divisional Series.

Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees:

De Block: For the first time, these two divisional rivals will be facing each other in the postseason. These teams matched up ten times throughout the regular season, and the Rays managed to beat up on the Yankees. Tampa Bay won eight of ten matchups, which was one of many reasons why they were able to win the AL East. Will the Rays be able to do more of the same in the playoffs?

One thing to note is that both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton missed more than half of those games. Those guys not only offer protection for their teammates, but also provide the ability to hit for power in the middle of the Yankees lineup. Now that New York has all of their best hitters healthy, the Rays pitching staff will need to perform if they want to win this series.

Starting pitching will become even more important in a five game series, and the Rays have the advantage in that position. While Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays have three very talented starters in Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton. Even if the Yankees ace is able to dominate in Game 1, the rest of rotation will need to do their job as well. Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Deivi Garcia will look to have strong outings behind their ace.

The health of All-Star outfielder Austin Meadows could play a major role in this series, as he adds another dimension to the Rays lineup. He has been out of the lineup since September 18th after suffering an oblique injury, but Meadows was added to the roster for the ALDS. While he is only hitting .205 with four home runs this year, the outfielder is capable of having a big series.

While I believe the Yankees have one of the best offenses in all of baseball, the Rays have had their number this season. Tampa Bay has the advantage when it comes to pitching, and I think that will propel them past their division rivals. Series Prediction: Rays in 5

Seitz: This might be the best matchup out of the four divisional round series. On one side you have the under-performing, somewhat disappointing New York Yankees and on the other you have the hodgepodge collection of timely hitting and elite pitching known as the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays took the 2020 regular season series from New York by winning 8 out of 10 games. The Yankees will look to reverse this trend in the best-of-five set.

New York’s offense exploded in the two games they played against the Cleveland Indians by scoring 22 runs in 18 innings. The Yankees saw production from every spot in their lineup and will need to continue to do the same if they want to take down the American League East champion Rays. Another key to Yankee success will be their starting pitching. All five games will be played on consecutive days, thus forcing managers to be extremely careful about using their pitching. This is something that does not play into New York’s favor as manager Aaron Boone has been known to make questionable decisions involving his pitching staff in the past.

Tampa Bay’s game plan is much easier said than done. The Rays need to continue to get that clutch hitting they have had all season. Coupled with good performances from an elite starting staff and bullpen, the Rays should be in a good position to eliminate their division rivals. Series Prediction: Rays in 4

Seipp: Let me start off by saying this: the New York Yankees are the far better overall team, but the Tampa Bay Rays are going to win this series. 

It all comes down to pitching depth. 

The Yankees very well take the first two games of this series, but after game two they have no stability in the rotation. It’s still, obviously, unclear who will start Game 3, and who knows who will go after. The Rays have Snell – Glasnow – Morton all lined up before they begin turning to bullpen games, which they’ve been doing the most successfully out of any team in the majors since the beginning of 2019. 

The Yankees lineup is extremely dangerous, but in an extremely large ballpark in San Diego, the long ball may not come easily for the Bronx Bombers. 

This will be the most competitive divisional series, as I see it going to five games. If the series doesn’t reach Friday night, that means the Yankees advanced. If not, Tampa Bay will be moving on to the ALCS for the first time since 2008. Series Prediction: Rays in five.

Oakland Athletics vs Houston Astros:

De Block:

De Block: This series is between two teams many believed would not be a part of the postseason at this stage. Many believed the Minnesota Twins would be able to get past a Houston Astros team who was without star pitcher Justin Verlander. Similarly, the Chicago White Sox were a young team people believed could make a deep run in the postseason, but the Oakland Athletics prevailed in the end. 

If the Astors want any chance of beating their divisional rival, they will need to get quality pitching across the board. They managed to only give up two runs in the entire Wild Card round, and they will need more of the same in order to give their offense a chance. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier could be pivotal in this series, as they were able to give the Astros seven shutout innings out of the bullpen against Minnesota. 

For Oakland, the team was able to get timely hitting and the best pitchers in the bullpen showed up when they needed to. Second-year catcher Sean Murphy hit .375 in the Wild Card round, including a crucial two-run home run in Game 3 that helped the A’s cut the White Sox’s lead to just one. Closer Liam Hendricks had a difficult time closing the door in Game 2, but was able to bounce back the following day and finish off the series. 

While I liked a lot of what I saw from the Astors in the Wild Card round, the Athletics looked hungry and ready to get past their AL West challenger. Manager Bob Melvin and his team will do enough to make it back to the ALCS. Series Prediction: Athletics in 4 

Seitz: The Houston Astros are still in the Postseason. The Astros were matched up against a very good Minnesota ballclub, but were able to make quick work of the Twins in the Wild Card Series. Personally, I am still trying to figure out who the Astros really are. Houston saw the majority of their star hitters have career-worst years and had a bullpen with more issues than a normal playoff team should have, but that did to seem to be the case in Minnesota. The Astros pitching staff only gave up two runs in as many games and will look to carry the Astros to the ALCS with a victory over their division rivals.

The Oakland A’s were able to overcome a game one loss to the Chicago White Sox and take their Wild Card Series in three games. The A’s have been playing for about the last month without their star third baseman Matt Chapman. Fortunately for Oakland, Jake Lamb has filled in nicely for the injured star and has been a key part of Oakland’s continued success. The A’s also have one of the best closers in the league in their bullpen as Liam Hendricks posted a 1.74 ERA this season. 

What makes this series all the more interesting are the storylines between these two teams. A’s pitcher Mike Fires is the player who supposedly reported the Astros’ cheating scandal in detail. Many Oakland players have also been on the record saying how they feel robbed by the aforementioned Houston cheating. On the other side, the Astros are playing with a chip on their shoulders and are trying to show everyone that they do not need to cheat to win. Series Prediction: A’s in 5

Seipp: In the Yankees/Ray series, we have two teams who don’t like each other; in the A’s/Astros series, we have two teams who hate each other. 

The A’s took seven of the 10 matchups between the two this year, as they took things personally. Like the Yankees/Rays, this series will come down to pitching. 

Tha A’s bullpen had the lowest ERA in baseball this season and they have five starters who will be able to go each day (Chris Bassitt – Sean Manaea – Jesus Luzardo – Mike Minor – Frankie Montas).

The Astros, on the other hand, don’t have that depth. Short term, they may be able to keep up pitching-wise, but definitely not long term.

Even with the loss of Matt Chapman, Jake Lamb has stepped up big time for the A’s offense as they haven’t taken a step back.

For the last three seasons, the A’s have been trying to advance deep into October, this is the year they do. Series Prediction: A’s in four.

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