The division series round is upon us and our first American League matchup brings with it two division rivals: the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. Both clubs have elite pitching staffs. For Boston, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy have been stellar this season (Lester will start game 1 at home). For the Rays, the youth movement has yielded some stellar starting pitchers such as tiebreaker pitcher David Price, wild card game pitcher Alex Cobb and game 1 pitcher Matt Moore.
Obviously these two teams know each other well. They know what they like to do offensively as well as defensively. Both teams can certainly score runs, but this may be neutralized to some extent by the great starting pitching on both sides. Home field advantage will play a large role in this series as the Red Sox love to play in the bandbox that we call Fenway Park. David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Dustin Pedroia all love the monster in left field and the small wall in right. The Rays, on the other hand, will have to contend with the crowd noise of the boisterous Boston fan base, which can rattle more inexperienced players. The Rays will have to steal a game or two in Fenway in order to win the short series and I’m not so sure they’re up to the task against a team as dynamic as Boston. Red Sox in 5.
On the other side of the coin are two teams that have been waiting to play each other for about a week. The Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s represent a matchup of clubs with two different ideologies. The Tigers are big spenders and have brought in high priced free agents in the past such as Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, both of which have paid huge dividends for the club. The A’s have gotten their success over the past decade or so through their classic “moneyball” methods. Billy Beane has once again compiled a winning club with the extremely limited resources he has available to him. The Tigers rotation is downright intimidating with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander starting games 1 and 2, respectively. Anibal Sanchez, who would be considered an ace in most rotations, will take the hill at home at Comerica Park for game 3. Both ball parks feature large expanses of outfield, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see some pitchers duels.
If the A’s want to have a chance against the seemingly superior Tigers, they need to get some fantastic starting pitching from guys like Bartolo Colon and Jarrod Parker. They will also need to get timely hitting from the middle of the order (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss). If guys like Coco Crisp and Josh Donaldson can see a lot of pitches and get on base, this should help Oakland’s ability to score runs. Having said this, the experience that the Tigers possess in the postseason as well as their superior position-by-position breakdown should lead them to victory. Something to watch will be Miguel Cabrera’s health. If his injury hinders him to any meaningful extent, everything could change. But for now I’ll take the Tigers in 4.