Technically, the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays both completed two-game sweeps of their Wild Card Round opponents, the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays, respectively, on Wednesday.
But to call what each of those teams did en route to facing one another in the ALDS a sweep is to neglect the contrasting ways they got there.
The No. 1 Rays, as expected, were dominant, taking down the Blue Jays 3-1 and then 8-2. It was their first postseason series win since 2008, but these aren't the Rays of old. It was an offensive firestorm, capped off by Hunter Renfroe's grand slam in the second inning for an early 7-0 lead in Game 2 that the Rays never relinquished.
En route to their Wild Card Round victory, Rays pitchers struck out 23 in 18 innings, giving up only three earned runs.
The Yankees were made to sweat it out a little more in Game 2, which they took 10-9. But there's no question they are playing their best baseball of this shortened season. The Indians had a 4-0 lead early and went into the ninth inning with a 9-8 lead. But they couldn't prevent New York from putting up two runs in the top of the ninth.
Yankees-Rays is a matchup everyone could see coming from a mile away, but that won't make it any less exciting. Let's take a look at the early odds and preview the series after the conclusion of the Wild Card Round.
ALDS: Yankees vs. Rays
Series start date: Monday, Oct. 5
Series format: Best-of-five
Location: Petco Park, San Diego
Odds to win AL: Rays 2-1; Yankees 19-10
Game 1: Monday, October 5, TBS
Game 2: Tuesday, October 6, TBS
Game 3: Wednesday, October 7, TBS
Game 4: Thursday, October 8, TBS
Game 5: Friday, October 9, TBS
For a fun window in the mid-2000s, when the Red Sox finally Reversed the Curse, the animosity between the Yankees and Red Sox, as only two divisional rivals can muster, was everything. But as the Red Sox have fallen off, the Rays have begun their rise to power, and a new rivalry has been brewing.
That this ALDS will take place at a neutral site, Petco Park, could take a little heat out of what is sure to be a fiery showdown between two clubs that have been reveling in their distaste for one another.
On the other hand, it's an intriguing opportunity for these teams to show their best stuff—98-mph fastballs and multiple aces and home run prowess—without game site and fans edging into the equation.
It could all come down to Tampa Bay's pitching rotation, which has enough aces or would-be aces to take almost any hand they are dealt. Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow are just relentless with their hard stuff, and it's overwhelmed near every opponent they have faced.
The Yankees, however, are built for that; they scored more runs per game on hard pitches than any other team in baseball, with the third-highest home run percentage and OPS.
With four days' rest until their ALDS series begins, both teams can reset their pitching rotations, which means we are likely to see a showdown between New York's prized offseason acquisition, Gerrit Cole, and Snell.
When everything is well-oiled, New York is a home run machine. The Rays, however, outperformed the Yankees 16-13 in that regard during the regular season. What's more, Tampa Bay took the regular-season series 8-2.
Make no mistake: These are two exceptional clubs, and their spots in the ALDS were being kept warm for them. But for all the Yankees can do well, the Rays can do things just a little bit better.
Odds via DraftKings and current as of Oct. 1.