Tampa Bay, the Wild Card team, has the most momentum in the American League divisional series.
Gone are the days when the Yankees and Red Sox were destined to meet in the American League championship series.
The Yankees aren’t even in the divisional series. The Sox are, however, they aren’t a heavy favorite. In fact, none of these teams are. They are all strong in their own way.
On to the preview:
Tampa Bay Rays (AL Wild Card) vs. Boston Red Sox (AL East champions)
This is no mismatch. The Rays were one of baseball’s best teams for most of the season. The incredibly competitive AL East squeezed two teams into the playoffs.
Tampa Bay is hot, winning two elimination games this week in Texas and Cleveland. The Rays have Evan Longoria (32 home runs) and a suddenly resurgent James Loney at the plate.
It’s more of the same for Boston. David Ortiz is still a stud. Big Papi hit .309, smacked 30 home runs and drove in 103 RBIs. Numerous players hit more than or around the .300 mark. And the Sox finished tied for the best record in baseball (97 wins).
But Tampa Bay is hot. They’re familiar with Boston. And definitely not afraid. The numbers say Boston will win the series, but momentum is with the Rays.
The pick: Tampa Bay in five.
Detroit Tigers (AL Central champions) vs. Oakland Athletics (AL West champions)
When you have Max Scherzer leading the pitching charge, a lot will go right. Scherzer led the majors with 21 wins. Justin Verlander used to be the man, but he was off this year. Detroit still has the pitching to make it bck to the World Series, as four hurlers have ERAs under 4.
Oakland has the home field advantage. The A’s didn’t have a very high batting average — only one player hit more than .300 — however four players hit at least 22 home runs or more. Surprisingly, Bartolo Colon led the pitching staff with an 18-6 record. The guy appeared washed up years ago, but here he is.
The edge has to go to Detroit. In addition to the strong pitching, the Tigers have a good lineup featuring the best hitter on the planet, Miguel Cabrera (44 home runs, .348 average, 137 RBIs.
The pick: Detroit in four.