James Rowe Previews and Predicts the 2020 ALDS
Houston Astros vs Oakland Athletics
After struggling for most of the season, the Houston Astros stunned the baseball world by sweeping American League Central Division winner Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card round. Now the Astros must take on AL West rival Oakland Athletics in the Division Series. The A’s labored it out in three games against the Chicago White Sox, showing why they were West Division champs.
From last week’s analysis of the first round of the American League playoffs, it’s pretty easy to grasp what each team is like. But the intangibles mean this series is going to be special. There is bad blood between the two clubs, demonstrated by a bench-clearing brawl on August 9. The underlying tension has the potential of pouring more fuel on a smoldering fire. Adding to the drama is the presence of former Houston hurler Mike Fiers, now an Oakland pitcher, who is one of the few former Houston players to come out about the Astros cheating.
Keys To Series
Pitching is most likely going to be the biggest factor in the series. While Oakland has far and away the best bullpen, Houston’s rotation has been more consistent of late. Offensively it will be interesting to see what happens. The Astros core is having a down season, but Oakland’s lineup is not imposing especially without star third baseman Matt Chapman. However, Houston does have players like Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa who have experienced more playoff baseball. Oakland will have to hope Khris Davis, Matt Olson, and Marcus Semien step up and make some timely hits.
Season Series: Oakland 7-3
Prediction: Oakland in four
New York Yankees vs Tampa Bay Rays
This ALDS is trying to give fans as much drama as possible offering up another series in which two division rivals duke it out. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have to go through each other to reach the American League Championship Series. With the Yankees finally fully healthy, these two clubs might be the two best in the AL.
New York does one thing really really well–hitting the ball out of the park. The Yankees dismantled a Cleveland Indians team in two games, rolling over arguably the best rotation in the AL. The Yankees are hitting really well of late. It seems as if New York is clobbering any pitcher an opponent throws at them. That could be bad news for Tampa Bay, which relies on pitching and has one of the best staffs in the AL. But in their Wild Card Round against AL East foe Toronto Blue Jays, the Rays won not only by solid pitching and timely hitting. They also slugged the ball in a sweep.
Keys To Series
Pitching undoubtedly will be the key to this matchup. The Yankees have some decent starting pitching–including Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka, while Tampa Bay has a deep and great rotation with Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow at the helm. Each bullpen is so good that it doesn’t seem possible to give an edge to one or the other. There might be some match-ups to do making this quite the chess match. Offensively, the teams are nearly polar opposites. New York’s Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, and Aaron Judge are absolutely clobbering the ball. It seems that no pitching staff can hold them at bay. Tampa Bay’s offense isn’t particularly imposing and is more likely to rely on manufacturing runs and timely hits–although Brandon Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Manuel Margot do have some power. These imbalances make this matchup unique and intriguing.
Although they have been the best team in the AL all season, the Rays face a Yankees team that has been playing its best baseball at precisely the right time. Tampa Bay dominated the regular-season series and New York had its ups and downs during the 2020 campaign. But the Rays might be facing a far better Yankees squad than the one they played last.
Season series: Tampa Bay 8-2
Prediction: Tampa Bay in five
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