AL Playoff Previews

Steve O Speak

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Brian Murphy

This is my preview for the American League Divisional Series.  The AL playoffs kick off Wednesday starting with the Rangers @ Rays at 1:37 and then the Yankees @ Twins at 8:37.

Texas Rangers (90-72) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)

The Rangers travel to the Trop to take on the Rays, who had baseball’s best record in the regular season.  It will be interesting to see if the home-field advantage actually makes that big of a difference in this series considering Tropicana Field drew about 12,000 fans in a potential playoff-clinching game.  This is the playoffs though and the fans were rowdy two years ago in the postseason so I’d be shocked to see them not show up in large numbers.  Anyway, let’s analyze the two teams:

Pitching: The first game will be the best pitching-duel of the series as David Price takes on Cliff Lee.  Price was 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.19 WHIP this season.  He pitched one time against Texas this year going 6 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, and striking out 8 in a 6-4 win.  I will look to see the same type of outing from Price Wednesday against one of the most productive batting lineups in the AL.  Cliff Lee is the one pitcher on the Rangers that I can see winning a game in this series.  What he did in the postseason last year was just ridiculous and if he can repeat that, the Rangers can maybe scrap up a couple of wins.  Lee was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP this year.  However, Lee has had a rough time pitching against the Rays this year.  He lost all 3 games he pitched to the Rays going 26.2 innings, giving up 12 earned runs, and 24 hits.  EDGE: Price

Game 2: C.J. Wilson (TEX) vs. James Shields (TB).  I give the edge to Shields here because he will be pitching at home and had relatively good success against Texas this year going 1-1 in 14 innings and only giving up 4 earned runs.  Wilson actually won in his only start against Tampa thanks to great run support, going 5 innings and giving up 3 earned runs.

Game 3: Matt Garza (TB) vs. Colby Lewis (TEX).  Yet again, I feel like Garza has what it takes to win this battle as he went 2-0 against Texas this season including a shutout in 7 innings in his last outing.  Lewis did not pitch against the Rays this season.

Game 4: Wade Davis (TB) vs. Tommy Hunter (TEX).  I’ll give the edge to Hunter in the battle of the #4 pitchers.  Hunter had a CG win early in the season against the Rays giving up only 1 ER.

Hitting: There are some All-Star caliber sluggers on both these teams with the Rangers featuring Kinsler, Young, Hamilton, Guerrero and the Rays featuring Crawford, Upton, Pena, and Longoria.  The Rangers were 1st in the bigs in batting avg (.276) and 5th in runs (787), whereas the Rays were a lowly 27th in batting avg (.247) yet 3rd in runs (802).  The Rays have what it takes to put up some high numbers but the Rangers seem more consistent.  EDGE: Rangers

Prediction: I think the Rays will be too much for the Rangers in this series.  They have better pitching and they are the Champs of the best league in baseball, the AL East.  It would be interesting if the Rangers can squeak out a win in Tampa in the first two games and then head to Arlington for two more.  RAYS IN 4

New York Yankees (95-67) vs. Minnesota Twins (94-68)

The World-Series Champs look to defend their 27th championship as they head to Minnesota for the ALDS.  The Yankees have beaten the Twins three times in a row since 2003 in the ALDS, however this is the first time Minnesota gets home field advantage.  It will be interesting to see how Target Field plays a factor in the stadium’s first playoff series in history.

Pitching: Game 1: One of baseball’s most automatic, consistent pitchers C.C. Sabathia (21-7, 3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) will be dueling against Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP).  Liriano has shown signs of dominance in his career and had two decent outtings against the Yankees earlier this season going 0-1 in two starts and giving up 5 runs in 13 innings.  C.C. did not pitch against the Twins this season but has been one of baseball’s best and the Yankees’ ace. EDGE: SABATHIA

Game 2 and 3: The Yankees have not announced who their probables are for Games 2 and 3, but I assume Pettitte will go Game 2 if he is healthy and ready to go and that will leave either Nova or Hughes to pitch Game 3.  The Twins are pitching former Yankee-bust Carl Pavano in Game 2 and former relief pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 3.  With Pettitte’s unbelievable October and postseason track record, I see him having the edge in the game he pitches.  If Duensing goes up against the rookie Nova I would give the edge to Duensing.  Hughes could have a great game if he starts and throws his best.

Game 4: Nick Blackburn (MIN) vs. A.J. Burnett (NYY).  Blackburn is an impressive 2-0 in 2 starts against the Yankees, giving up 5 runs in 14 innings.  Burnett is just a mystery; will he pitch dominant like he did when signed by the Yankees or will he be the league leader in wild pitches and throw countless walks like he has shown this year?  Burnett is 1-0 against the Twins this year in 2 starts, giving up 2 earned runs in 11.2 innings, but I have just not been impressed with his consistency and lack of control.

Hitting: The Bronx Bombers sport another powerful lineup from top-to-bottom this postseason.  When fully healthy, they have the most dangerous lineup in the league with such All-Star caliber as Jeter, Cano, Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Posada.  It will be interesting to see if the clutch A-Rod of last postseason continues and if Teixeira can step up.  Don’t count out the Twins though as they were 2nd in batting avg (.274) and 6th in runs (772) this season with such sluggers as Mauer, Cuddyer, Thome, and Young.  The Twins can definitely put up some runs but it is hard to find a better lineup on better than the Yankees — the only question is can they prove it on the field? EDGE: YANKEES

Predicition: This will be a great back-and-forth, nail-bitting series that I think will be decided in 5 games.  Home-field advantage should play a key role and it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their starting pitcher situation after Sabathia.  Overall, I think the Yankees will continue their postseason success against the Twins and strive for their 28th World Series title. YANKEES IN 5

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