With one American League Division Series noted at a game apiece and the other seeing one team march out to a commanding lead after two games, you can't help but look ahead to make predictions about which teams will not only survive the ALDS, but also advance to the World Series.
In the series between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, we've already seen the effects that playing two extra games (tiebreaker and Wild Card) has played on the Rays. In Game 1, it was a series of mistakes that contributed to a five-run fourth inning for the Red Sox (and eventual 12-2 win).
In Game 2, Rays ace David Price didn't have his best stuff, giving up seven runs (and two homers to David Ortiz) as the Red Sox won, 7-4.
It's hard to imagine the Rays winning three in a row against this Red Sox team, especially the way they've hit in this series. They'll turn to Alex Cobb—he's the man who led them past the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card Round—to help them stay alive in Game 3.
The Rays very well may win a game, but this series is going to be won by the Red Sox, likely in four games. For as resilient as the Rays have proven to be in September, the road will come to an end in the ALDS.
The other series in the American League, between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics, has been about as even and brilliant as neutral fans could ask for. In Game 1, Max Scherzer was the hero, striking out 11 in a 3-2 win for the Tigers.
In Game 2, Sonny Gray was the unlikely hero, outdueling Justin Verlander in a 1-0 shutout win.
But in a series that has proven to be all about the pitching, the Tigers get the edge. Game 3 starter Anibal Sanchez has been excellent this season, going 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 202 strikeouts. He'll face Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 134 strikeouts).
It's the balance of the Tigers that will carry them past the Athletics. The starting pitching is absurdly good. The back end of the bullpen is strong. The team can mash the ball with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson and Victor Martinez in the lineup.
This series will likely go five games, but the Tigers will prevail.
So when you put the best lineup in the American League this season (Red Sox) against arguably the league's most balanced team (Tigers), which team comes out on top?
While the Red Sox generate runs and can hurt you at any spot in their lineup, the old adage holds that defense wins championships. In baseball terms, that can perhaps be translated to: "Pitching wins World Series."
The series should be wildly entertaining and prove to be a back-and-forth affair, but the Tigers will return to the World Series, beating Boston in six.
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