Friday, October 4, 2013

ALDS - Some Might Find This Offensive

Both American League divisional series have their share of top-line pitchers but other than Detroit’s one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, it’s nothing like the hurlers in both NLDS. Where the American teams prosper over the National teams is at the plate. All four squads possess the ability to put crooked numbers on the board at any time, maybe the reason the American League representative is already the favorite to win the World Series in a few weeks. Tampa Bay vs. Boston While Boston might have pulled away from the rest of the A.L. East to win the division going away it seems all the Sox actually did is force the Rays to play a couple of win or go home games on the road in the wild-card and build momentum for their ALDS starting at Fenway Park. Tampa looks to win its fourth road game in six days in game one, a match-up of Matt Moore vs. Jon Lester (won last three decisions). Boston pretty much owned the Rays during the regular season winning 12 of the 19 match-ups, going 6-4 at Fenway and 6-3 at Tropicana Field. The Rays throw their best two at the Red Sox line-up in games one and two with Moore and David Price (combined ERA of 0.86 in four starts at Fenway Park this season). Tampa must get a split in order to have any shot and they’ll have a great chance against John Lackey in game two. Lackey put together a lack-luster season going (10-13 with a 3.52 ERA). In order for the Rays to pull off the upset, Evan Longoria will need to stay hot. In his last eight games the third baseman is hitting .393 with three homers and 11 RBIs. It seems when Longoria goes, so do the Rays. James Loney (75 RBI) and Ben Zobrist (71 RBI) are threats to produce as well. Delmon Young is capable of putting a ball in the seats at any time as is rookie sensation Wil Myers although the Rays hit just 165 long balls all year long, 11th in the majors. Boston meanwhile sports the most productive offense in the bigs this season. The Sox scored 853 runs, 57 more than their nearest competitor the Detroit Tigers. Big Papi, David Ortiz is the first name that comes to mind in the Boston bat heavy line-up. Ortiz roped 30 homers to go with 103 RBI, followed by Mike Napoli’s 23 homers and 92 runs batted in. Boston follows up power with average in Daniel Nava at .303 and Dustin Pedroia at .301. The Sox lead the majors in on-base percentage at .349, as the Red Sox capitalize on the opportunities when they present themselves. Neither team’s middle relief has been much to write home about but if the Red Sox get the ball to closer Koji Uehara (1.09 ERA and 21 saves) it’s usually lights out game over. As in most divisional series this two squads know each other well. The Red Sox will not intimidate the Rays and Tampa will not be in awe of Fenway Park. The Rays are hot and both Moore and Price have had success against Boston. However with the resurgence in the Red Sox rotation as of late with Clay Buchholtz now healthy the Sox can beat you with pitching or offense. They by far have the better bats so Tampa will need lights out pitching and no shaky bullpen outings to hang around. They should split in Boston but from there the Sox depth in all areas is simply too much. Boston in four is our call. Detroit vs. Oakland If you read just headlines, this match-up translates as all Detroit. The Tigers went to the World Series last year, sport the American League’s best one-two starting pitching punch in Scherzer and Verlander and bring huge experienced bats to the plate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter. But underneath the bold print you look a little closer and spot just how consistent the A’s have been all season long. Oakland is the only team in the majors that didn’t suffer one losing month. The Athletics played steady baseball from April through September, so there is no reason to think that will change all of a sudden. The moment won’t be too large for the Athletics either. Many forget they made it to the ALDS last season before falling to these same Tigers, which went the full five games. Oakland has the home field advantage this time around and also has ace Bartolo Colon to start game one. Colon missed the post-season in 2012 while serving a suspension for PED use. Backing him up in the rotation are Jerrod Parker, Sonny Gray and Dan Straily. The three and four starters for the Tigers appear stronger at least on paper with Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister. Many don’t realize the A’s also having some long ball power as four players (Brandon Moss, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson and Coco Crisp) with at least 22 homers. Injuries could play a role to sluggers on both teams as Cabrera has been saddled with numerous problems such as his groin, abs and hip injuries while Cespedes re-aggravated a right shoulder problem that could force him to become no more than a pinch-hitter in this series. This series could be won in the bullpen. Oakland ranks sixth this season in bullpen ERA with Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Dan Otero getting the ball to closer Grant Balfour who was lights out in 2013. Detroit’s pen improved as Joaquin Benoit has solidified the closer role along with Drew Smyly as relievable middle relief but the edge here goes to Oakland without a doubt. While Detroit could win 1-0 or 3-2 low scoring games behind Scherzer and Verlander in the early games, they’ll need to outscore the A’s in the rest of the series and that favors Oakland, especially with game five at the rowdy O.Com Coliseum. While the Tigers are favored, we like the consistency of the A’s all-around-game, to win a five game series and advance to the ALCS.

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