Preview and Predictions for AL first round.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays took the #1 seed in the American League by playing every matchup perfectly throughout the season.  Dealing with injuries up and down the lineup and rotation they seemed to find the right mixes to be successful no matter what.  They will face an opponent that knows them very well in the Toronto Blue Jays.  

The Blue Jays have a powerful lineup, seeing a surge from Lourdes Gourriel Jr. over the last month to go along with Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez.  Toronto actually has the advantage on the offensive side, averaging 5 runs per game.  The Blue Jays offense will be the lone advantage they have in this series.

Tampa Bay marches out a rotation of Blake Snell in GM1, Tyler Glasnow in GM2 and Charlie Morton in GM3.  Their rotation along with the best bullpen in baseball will be enough to hold down the Toronto offense.  Tampa Bay’s offense plays the matchup game very well and will be too much for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s best chance will be in game two when they have off-season signing Hyun Jin Ryu who brings some experience in a playoff setting, but the Rays have some great right-handed bats that will thrive. Rays are built for this situation. 

Pick: Rays in 2

Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees

The Yankees narrowly avoided a matchup with their “daddys” in 2020 the Tampa Bay Rays.  Instead they get the Cleveland Indians and potential MVP and guaranteed Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in game one.  Bieber versus Cole in game one will be a classic matchup of two bulldog pitchers that will go deep in the game and the first one to miss a spot is going to likely give up the game. The big problem for the Indians is that their lineup doesn’t feature nearly the amount of hitters that can provide the big pop when needed. 

Cleveland’s pitching will give them a chance but their team batting average of .228 and a major lack of power ranking 27th in the league in team ISO.  Jose Ramirez has carried the offense of late but he will need help against the powerful Yankee bats.  New York is healthy again and has the horses in the bullpen to clean up any trouble the starters run into.  Indians don’t have enough to pull this one out. 

Pick: Yankees in 3

Minnesota Twins vs. Houston Astros

The Twins have not won a playoff game in a very long time, losing 16 straight playoff games dating back to 2004.  This series should give the Twins their first game win and series win.  The Astros have dealt with a loss of injuries in 2020, yet somehow found themselves in the playoff due the new expansion. Houston has been offensively challenged at times in 2020.  Recently seeing a resurgence of power with George Springer and Alex Bregman.  Still the Astros have a team ISO ranking 18th in the league and team batting average of .240 ranking 20th in the league.  

Minnesota has the advantage with their rotation for the first two games going with Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios in the first two games.  At this point the Astros have only announced Zack Greinke as their game one starter with the other TBD.  Minnesota loves right handed pitching, as a team they are #1 in the league in overall home run percentage versus righties.  That is a big factor in the Minnesota offense as they are a team that thrives on scoring runs due to the long ball.  

The Astros haven’t announced who will start game 2 or game 3 yet, my money would go on Framber Valdez to offset Minnesota’s dominant numbers against right handed pitching. The Twins have more depth in the bullpen, rotation and lineup.  They have to get over the mental hump of consistent playoff losses.  They have the talent and should make quick work of the injury riddled Houston Astros. 

Pick: Twins in 2

Oakland Athletics vs Chicago White Sox

I’ve reviewed the Oakland Athletics numbers over and over again and still can’t figure out how the Athletics score runs.  Horrible seasons from Matt Olson, Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Ramon Laureano, coupled with losing Matt Chapman for the season has left the lineup underwhelming. The pitching staff has stepped up to mask the offensive problems.  The Athletics bullpen has been impressive, leading to the Athletics having a record of 27-0 when leading after the 7th inning.  Liam Hendricks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekmann have been lights out for the Athletics all season.  

The Athletics are going to go with Sean Manaea in game one despite the immaculate White Sox record against left-handed pitching. Breakout starter Chris Bassit will likely pitch game 2. Oakland is going to have to get a lead early and that will be tough against the White Sox top two starters Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. 

The White Sox offense is better in nearly every single position bat for bat and if they are able to grab a lead I can’t see the Athletics offense being able to come back.   Chicago has found a niche in the back end with Alex Colome being set up by Matt Foster, Aaron Bummer and their new weapon rookie Garrett Crochet.  The White Sox have more talent and better pitching.  The Athletics have the experience.  The talent will win out in a short series.  

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