Tampa Bay. Boston. Houston. Chicago. Who will advance to the ALCS?
The ALDS starts this afternoon and Tampa has their eyes set on avenging their World Series defeat from a year ago. In their way stands the pesky Red Sox. Houston is back in the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Opposite them is an upstart White Sox team looking to win their first World Series title since 2005. Here are our predictions for the ALDS.
Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Boston Red Sox
After defeating the Yankees 6-2 in the Wild Card game, Boston faces off against another divisional rival. Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodríguez, and Nate Eovaldi are slated to pitch the first three games for the Red Sox, giving Boston a fighting chance. The rotation need’s to be lights out because Boston’s bullpen is their biggest weakness.
Selected from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft, Garrett Whitlock (1.96 ERA, 2.84 FIP), has been the team’s best reliever all year long. Tanner Houck (3.52 ERA, 2.58 FIP) has become a swiss army knife, pitching in the rotation and out of the bullpen. He will be leaned on for key situations.
In order to slay the 100 win behemoth, the offense will need to carry the load. J.D. Martinez missed the Wild Card game with an injury, but was named to the team’s ALDS roster. Joining him is Rafael Devers, Xander Boagaerts, Alex Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe, and Kyle Schwarber.
The last year has been absolutely wild for Tampa. First, they lost in six games to the Dodgers in the World Series. Then the front office decided to decline Charlie Morton’s option and he left in free agency. They followed this up by trading away Blake Snell, thus breaking up their vaulted big three.
It didn’t seem to matter with Tampa going on to win a franchise-record 100 games and clinching the number one seed in the AL. Last year, Tampa’s offense doomed them against LA, but this year that doesn’t seem to be a problem. They had 10 different players hit double-digit homers, including four with 20+, and two with 30+.
The X-factor for Tampa’s offense is Brandon Lowe. The Maryland product led the team in homers (39), runs scored (97), OPS (.863), and WAR (4.8). He struggled in last year’s playoffs, slashing .118/.183/.276, and will be looking to prove he can show up when it matters.
Tampa’s bread and butter is their pitching, mainly the bullpen. They led the AL in ERA (3.24), FIP (3.59), fWAR (7.9), and strikeouts (739), second in LOB% (74.6%), and were fifth in saves (42). If they get the ball with a lead, more than not the game is already over.
Prediction: Tampa is the deeper team and that will be on full display.