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For the past two seasons, the winner of the World Series has come from the American League. In 2017, the Houston Astros won the World Series for the first time in their franchise’s history. A year later, the Boston Red Sox won their fourth championship since 2000.
With the start of the American League Division Series, four teams look to knock on the door of history. Four teams, one mission. Who will represent the American League going forward?
New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
This series is a battle between two teams who are very familiar with each other. New York and Minnesota have faced off a total of five times in the playoffs. In all five of those meetings, New York has won every time (13-2 overall).
Minnesota shocked the baseball world by putting together an impressive season. A year after finishing under .500, leading to a manager change, Minnesota came out swinging hot and set the record for most home runs in a single season.
New York on the other hand showed that depth is the greatest tool in sports. They not only won the American League East essentially unopposed but they did so despite not having most of their star players like outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Players To Watch:
New York: Shortstop Didi Gregorious
Going into this season, Didi Gregorious was expected to have a huge year. Unfortunately, he was one of many Yankees to get hurt during the season and miss significant time. With it being a contract year, this is where Gregorious will have to earn his extension and pay raise.
He’ll be asked to split time with infielders DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres but if he takes advantage of every at bat, he’ll earn that deal. If he gets paid, it’s probably because New York has won.
Minnesota: Pitcher Michael Pineda
Minnesota’s pitching is their biggest weakness in this series. When going up against a team like the Yankees, it’s important to establish a strong pitching game.
Michael Pineda didn’t have the strongest year of all the Minnesota pitchers but he’s been in this situation before with the team they’re playing against. Pineda will more than likely be called on in at least one big-game situation in this series.
Prediction: New York Yankees defeat the Minnesota Twins in five games
This series will be a war. Both teams have great hitting, good fielding and a lack of starting pitching. The one advantage that New York does have is their bullpen. That should be the difference maker in this series. It won’t be a pretty series but it will be entertaining for the fans.
Tampa Bay Rays vs Houston Astros
When Tampa Bay beat the Oakland A’s 5-1 in the American League Wild Card Game, they looked like a division winner. Now they face baseball’s best team: the Houston Astros. After clawing to get into the Wild Card Game, they were not going to go down easily.
Houston’s 107 win season is only one shy of what Boston did last year. However, like New York, they were decimated by injuries to stars like second baseman Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa. The question remains, who will win: baseball’s best team or its hungriest team?
Players to Watch:
Tampa Bay: First Baseman Yandy Diaz
In their Wild Card Game matchup with Oakland, Yandy Diaz looked amazing. He went 3 for 4, hit two home runs and had two runs batted in. If this was indeed a taste of what Diaz can do, then this postseason may have his stamp imprinted on it.
Houston: Starting Pitcher Zack Greinke
Their big move at the trade deadline, Zack Greinke has not lived up to expectations. Since being traded, he has a 4-3 record with a 3.02 earned run average. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, two potential Cy Young Award candidates will give Houston a big edge. If Greinke can’t be the guy to put the series away, then he may not be ready for the big time spotlight in the playoffs.
Prediction: Houston Astros defeat Tampa Bay Rays in four games
Tampa Bay is almost there but they need one more year of development. They’ll get a win in this Divisional Series but Houston just looks too strong. This could be the series to watch in all of baseball but it will ultimately come down to which dog has more fight in them.