As the American League playoffs get set to begin, the clear fact that remains is that not a lot separates the teams remaining. At this point, any of the squads remaining are capable of winning a World Series title.
The Boston Red Sox finished with the league's best record, although there are questions about the rotation. The Oakland Athletics have to prove that the past postseason failures are behind them, while the Detroit Tigers continue to deal with inconsistency.
Of course, they are all in better shape than wild-card teams—the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians—considering either one could be eliminated with a loss in the next game.
This is certain to be an exciting round of games as nothing should surprise us at this point. Make sure you follow along by using this preview for the divisional matchups.
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
While the Athletics finished with the better record and will have home-field advantage in this series, the major difference between these two teams is in the rotations.
Bartolo Colon had an amazing year for the A's, but there is a big drop-off after the 40-year-old pitcher. If he is able to outduel Justin Verlander in Game 1, the Tigers will still have the AL's win leader in Max Scherzer and ERA leader in Anibal Sanchez in the next two games.
Offensively, Detroit once again has the advantage thanks to Miguel Cabrera, who is undoubtedly the best hitter in baseball. Alongside him will be quality veteran hitters in Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and more.
Beyond Josh Donaldson, Oakland simply cannot compete with this lineup from top to bottom.
The Athletics' only hope is to hit a lot of home runs, and that simply does not seem likely against the Tigers' rotation. This should allow Detroit to reach the ALCS for the third year in a row.
Prediction: Tigers win 3-1.
Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians/Tampa Bay Rays
Cleveland ended the season on a 10-game winning streak, something that will help the squad in the one-game playoff against the Tampa Bay Rays.
While the Rays played well in the tiebreaking game, eventually the constant travel is going to catch up to them. The club will go from Toronto to Texas to Cleveland in a span of four days, and the play will start to suffer.
This gives the Indians the advantage to win the wild-card game, but they still do not match up well against the Red Sox in the division series. Boston had by far the best offense in baseball this past season, scoring 57 more runs than anyone in baseball.
The Tribe simply do not have the starting pitching to even slow down this incredibly deep lineup. The fact that Cleveland is sending out Danny Salazar against the Rays in his 11th career start is a big sign of that.
Neither side has had an elite rotation this season, but the Red Sox have the offense to make up for it. The Indians do not, and this will lead to enough high-scoring wins for Boston to advance.
Prediction: Red Sox win 3-1.
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