MLB Playoff Picture 2021: Viewing Schedule, Updated Odds for ALDS Matchups
With the AL and NL Wild Card Games out of the way, it's time for the real October baseball to begin.
The American League will open the divisional round Thursday with a pair of games. The Houston Astros host the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park in the opener, and an intradivision matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox follows.
Time is running out before the first pitch, so here's a last-minute preview before both series and a look at who's favored at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros
- Game 1: White Sox at Astros, Oct. 7 at 4:07 p.m. ET (FS1)
- Game 2: White Sox at Astros, Oct. 8 at 2:07 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
- Game 3: Astros at White Sox, Oct. 10 at 8:07 p.m. ET (FS1)
- Game 4*: Astros at White Sox, Oct. 11 at TBD (FS1)
- Game 5*: White Sox at Astros, Oc. 13 at TBD (FS1)
Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays
- Game 1: Red Sox at Rays, Oct. 7 at 8:07 pm. ET (FS1)
- Game 2: Red Sox at Rays, Oct. 8 at 7:02 p.m. ET (FS1)
- Game 3: Rays at Red Sox, Oct. 10 at 4:07 p.m. ET (MLB Network)
- Game 4*: Rays at Red Sox, Oct. 11 at TBD (FS1)
- Game 5*: Red Sox at Rays, Oct. 13 at TBD (FS1)
White Sox vs. Astros
Houston Astros: -130 (wager $130 to win $100)
Chicago White Sox: +110 (wager $100 to win $110)
If the cliche about good pitching beating good hitting holds true, then the White Sox will be punching a ticket to the AL Championship Series.
A playoff rotation of Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease simply isn't fair. And as if that weren't enough, manager Tony La Russa can lean on Ryan Tepera, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks in late-inning situations.
The Astros will counter with a lineup that posted a .336 weighted on-base average, the second-best in MLB, according to FanGraphs. Houston lost George Springer in the offseason but saw little dip in its offense.
Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker all hit 30-plus homers. Carlos Correa's combination of power (26 home runs, .485 slugging percentage) and defense helped him finish eighth among position players in WAR (5.8). Yuli Gurriel was sixth in on-base percentage (.383).
The lineup is so good that it didn't matter that Alex Bregman was limited to 91 games and had a career-low .777 OPS.
Of the two ALDS battles, this figures to be the most exciting because of the contrast between Chicago and Houston.
Red Sox vs. Rays
Tampa Bay Rays: -165
Boston Red Sox +140
With Blake Snell gone and Tyler Glasnow injured, the Rays bullpen is likely to be an anchor for the team this postseason.
According to FanGraphs, Tampa's relievers collectively rank first in FIP (3.59) and second in walk rate (2.82 per nine innings). They have also left 74.6 percent of their runners on base, fourth-best in MLB.
The team's leader in saves (Diego Castillo) last pitched for Tampa Bay on July 24 prior to his trade to the Seattle Mariners. Following Castillo's departure, manager Kevin Cash turned to Andrew Kittredge, Collin McHugh and Pete Fairbanks to finish out games.
Using a closer by committee is typically a sign of a shaky bullpen. For the Rays, it demonstrates how flexible Cash can be in a given game.
In their victory over the New York Yankees on Tuesday, the Red Sox jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the third inning thanks to home runs by Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was knocked out of the game that inning after having failed to register an out.
Building an early advantage will be critical for Boston because it will have a hard time clawing its way back if Tampa Bay hands over the game to its bullpen with a lead.
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