The American League Divisional Series has been set after the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Texas Rangers by a narrow 5-1 margin on Friday night.
Texas lost its divisional lead with one game to play when the Oakland Athletics defeated them to take the division for themselves. That forced a one-game wild card playoff against the Baltimore Orioles.
The O’s proved why a one-game playoff is the less preferred route due to the “anything can happen” nature of that type of game.
After sitting and watching the new wild card format, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees now enter the mix in the best-of-five divisional elimination round.
Winners of these two series will head to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) for a bid to represent the AL in the World Series.
Will the upstart A’s ride their late-season momentum and take it all the way to the ALCS? Will the experienced and perennial winning Yankees that have enough firepower to fend off the hot Baltimore Orioles in October?
All these things and more, along with the TV listings for each series, will be looked at below.
Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
Game 1: OAK at DET, Saturday, October 6 at 6 p.m.
Game 2: OAK at DET, Sunday, October 7 at 12 p.m.
Game 3: DET at OAK, Tuesday, October 9 at 9 p.m.
Game 4*: DET at OAK, Wednesday, October 10 at TBD
Game 5*: DET at OAK, Tuesday, October 11 at 9 TBD
Keys to the Series
If the A’s can somehow sweep the opening two games in Detroit, they will have a legitimate shot at surprising the bottom of the Tigers’ rotation once in Oakland.
It won’t be easy, though, as they will likely face the top two pitchers of Detroit's rotation: Justin Verlander and Derek Fister.
Tigers—Home Sweet Home
The Tigers were monsters at Comerica Park in 2012. They’ll use that home-field advantage that garnered them a 50-31 mark at home during the regular season to jump to an early 2-0 series lead and propel themselves into the ALCS.
Prediction: Tigers in 4 Games
After playing .500 baseball through 86 games, the Oakland Athletics erupted with a 51-25 finish to the 2012 season.
The A’s and Tigers have been more or less equal this season. The Athletics trailed the season series by a three games to four margin and scored just two fewer runs total over that seven game span.
However, in the playoffs, with the excellent pitching and explosive lineup of the Tigers, they’ll prove to be too much for the red-hot A’s in the ALDS.
Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees
Game 1: NYY at BAL, Sunday, October 7 at 6 p.m.
Game 2: NYY at BAL, Monday, October 8 at 8 p.m.
Game 3: BAL at NYY, Wednesday, October 10 at TBD
Game 4*: BAL at NYY, Thursday, October 11 at TBD
Game 5*: BAL at NYY, Friday, October 12 at 9 TBD
Keys to the Series:
Orioles—Keep It Close
The O’s were 29 and 9 in one-run games in 2012. That’s a staggering amount of wins when under pressure and it will be a key factor for the team if they hope to overcome the high-powered New York Yankees and reach the ALCS for the first time they lost to the Yanks there in 1996.
New York had home-field advantage then and took the best-of-seven series by a 4-1 margin.
The best thing the Yankees can do is to go into Baltimore this weekend and take a win right off the bat. That would essentially kill the momentum the O’s built as they put together this impressive second-half performance.
Winning early in the series will help New York as it will host the final three games of the series.
Prediction: Orioles in 5 Games
Both teams ended the season series in a 9-to-9 game lock. The Orioles scored 92 runs and allowed 90 Yankees to cross the plate. Things couldn’t be more even heading into this ALDS.
Baltimore has come too far and gutted out too many close victories to be denied its chance at a World Series championship. The team’s rise is a great story in personnel and budget management and would be an even better one if they overcame the biggest payroll in baseball to advance to the ALCS.
I think they’ll do it in Game 5 in New York. When the pressure is on them the most, the Orioles will rely on their experience from grinding out close wins and use it to defy the odds and topple the Yanks.
Mike Hoag Jr. is a Breaking News Team writer with Bleacher Report and also covers the NFL and the Cleveland Browns for the site.