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AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS: Your 5-minute guide to getting ready for all four Round 1 matchups

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AL MVP candidate Jose Ramirez (17 HR, 46 RBI, 45 runs, 10 steals, .386 OBP) has launched just one homer in 23 career playoff games with the Indians.

#8 TORONTO @ #1 TAMPA BAY

DATES: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (Tuesday-Thursday)
TV COVERAGE: TBS (Games 1/2; Game 3 TBD)
REGULAR SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: Rays had the edge, 6-4
SPLITS: Rays were 20-9 at home; Blue Jays were 15-19 on the road
POTENTIAL PITCHING MATCHUPS: Matt Shoemaker (TOR) vs. Blake Snell (TB) for Game 1 … Hyun Jin Ryu vs. Tyler Glasnow for Game 2 … Taijuan Walker vs. Charlie Morton

HITTERS TO WATCH

BLUE JAYS

RF Teoscar Hernandez (16 HR, 34 RBI, 33 runs, .919 OPS)
1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (9 HR, 33 RBI, 34 runs, .329 OBP)
2B Cavan Biggio (8 HR, 28 RBI, 41 runs, 6 steals, .375 OBP)
LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (11 HR, 33 RBI, 28 runs)
C Alejandro Kirk (.375 batting since late-season callup)

RAYS

2B Brandon Lowe (14 HR, 37 RBI, 36 runs, .362 OBP, .916 OPS)
SS Wily Adames (8 HR, 23 RBI, 29 runs, .332 OBP, .813 OPS)
3B Yandy Diaz (.307 batting, .428 on-base)

DID YOU KNOW …

a) Check it out: The Rays were 15-0 during the regular season when scoring six or more runs.

b) Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Glasnow has a 5-0 record in his last seven starts. During this excellent stretch, Glasnow also posted a 3.00 ERA, 64/8 K-BB rate and an opponent’s batting average of .171.

c) Since Sept. 6, the Blue Jays have notched double-digit runs five times. On the down side, Toronto pitchers surrendered double-digit runs four times during the same period.

d) Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu (Game 2 starter … formerly of the Dodgers) hasn’t gone beyond five innings of work in his last four playoff starts.

e) The top seven teams with bullpen ERA all reached the postseason. The Rays took third in this category (3.37), while also finishing second overall in BB/9 (2.90).

PREDICTION: Rays in 3

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MLB’S UPDATED POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

#5 N.Y. YANKEES @ #4 CLEVELAND

DATES: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (Tuesday-Thursday)
TV COVERAGE: ESPN (Games 1/2; Game 3 TBD)
REGULAR SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: No meetings
SPLITS: Indians were 18-12 at home; Yankees were 11-18 on the road
POTENTIAL PITCHING MATCHUPS: Gerrit Cole (NYY) vs. Shane Bieber (CLE) for Game 1 … Masahiro Tanaka vs. Carlos Carrasco for Game 2 … Zach Plesac vs. TBD for Game 3

YANKEES

1B Luke Voit (22 HR, 52 RBI, 41 runs, .277 batting, .948 OPS)
2B DJ LeMahieu (10 HR, 27 RB, 41 runs, .364 batting, .421 OBP, 1.011 OPS)
DH Giancarlo Stanton (4 HR, 11 RBI, 12 runs, .387 OBP, .887 OPS)
RF Aaron Judge (9 HR, 22 RBI, 23 runs, .336 OBP, .891 OPS)

INDIANS

3B Jose Ramirez (17 HR, 46 RBI, 45 runs, 10 steals, .292 batting, .993 OPS)
SS Francisco Lindor (8 HR, 27 RBI, 30 runs, 6 steals, .335 OBP)
DH Franmil Reyes (9 HR, 34 RBI, 27 runs, .275 batting, .344 OBP, .795 OPS)

DID YOU KNOW …

a) The Indians participated in 12 three-game series during the truncated regular season … and ended up taking the rubber game or sweeping altogether 10 different times.

b) No team had a more turbulent 2020 than the Yankees (at least on the field).

On the winning side, their separate streaks included six, seven and 10 games. For the negative, the slides entailed five and seven straight defeats, respectively.

c) Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has launched just one homer at Cleveland’s Progressive Field (26 career at-bats). For these seven starts, Judge had a walk-to-strikeout rate of 3/13 and merely batted .231.

d) According to the Action Network, the seventh-seeded White Sox have greater odds of capturing the American League pennant (14.6 percent) than the Indians (13.5 percent) and Yankees (10.9 percent).

PREDICTION: Indians in 3

#6 HOUSTON @ #3 MINNESOTA

DATES: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (Tuesday-Thursday)
TV COVERAGE: ABC/ESPN2 (Games 1/2; Game 3 TBD)
REGULAR SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: No meetings
SPLITS: Twins were 24-7 at home; Astros were 9-23 on the road
POTENTIAL PITCHING MATCHUPS: Zack Greinke (HOU) vs. Kenta Maeda (MIN) for Game 1 … TBD vs. Jose Berrios for Game 2 … TBD vs. Michael Pineda for Game 3

ASTROS

CF George Springer (14 HR, 32 RBI, 37 runs, .359 OBP, .899 OPS)
SS Carlos Correa (5 HR, 25 RBI, 22 runs, .326 OBP)
2B Jose Altuve (5 HR, 18 RBI, 32 runs)
1B Yuli Gurriel (5 HR, 22 RBI, 27 runs)
LF Kyle Tucker (9 HR, 42 RBI, 33 rns, 8 steals, .325 OBP)

TWINS

DH Nelson Cruz (16 HR, 33 RBI, 33 runs, .303 batting, .397 OBP, .992 OPS)
1B Miguel Sano (13 HR, 25 RBI, 31 runs)
LF Eddie Rosario (13 HR, 42 RBI, 31 runs, .316 OBP, .792 OPS)
3B Josh Donaldson (6 HR, 11 RBI, 14 runs, .373 OBP, .842 OPS)
2B Luis Arraez (16 runs, .321 batting, .364 on-base)

FALL INTO THE GAP

On paper, this seems like the easiest Round 1 series to forecast, given the Grand Canyon-sized gap separating Minnesota’s home success (24-7) and Houston’s wretched record on the road (9-23).

Are the Astros really this bad in empty ballparks that don’t have train tracks in left field?

DID YOU KNOW …

a) Astros slugger George Springer has a reputation for carving up Twins pitching, especially on the road.

Citing his 16 career starts at Target Field, Springer owns robust tallies of six homers, 17 RBI and 19 runs, along with a .348 batting average, .439 on-base percentage and staggering 1.135 OPS.

b) The Twins didn’t suffer back-to-back losses at Target Field all season.

c) Minnesota ace Kenta Maeda has collected seven-plus strikeouts in each of his last seven starts.

For this torrid stretch, dating back to Aug. 18, the former Dodgers standout boasts the following cumulative tallies: 5-2, 2.72 ERA, 59/6 K-BB, .175 opponents’ batting average and .206 opponents’ on-base average.

d) Charting his six career road starts during the postseason, Zack Greinke yielded more than two earned runs just once (2019 vs. the Rays).

For the six outings, the Astros ace proffered a 3.99 ERA and 29/11 K-BB rate.

PREDICTION: Twins in 2

#7 CHICAGO @ #2 OAKLAND

DATES: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (Tuesday-Thursday)
TV COVERAGE: ESPN (Games 1/2; Game 3 TBD)
REGULAR SEASON HEAD-TO-HEAD: No meetings
SPLITS: Athletics were 22-10 at home; White Sox were 17-13 on the road
POTENTIAL PITCHING MATCHUPS: Lucas Giolito (CWS) vs. Jesus Lozardo (OAK) for Game 1 … Dallas Keuchel vs. Chris Bassitt for Game 2 … Dylan Cease vs. Sean Manaea for Game 3

HITTERS TO WATCH

WHITE SOX

SS Tim Anderson (10 HR, 21 RBI, 45 runs, 5 steals, .322 batting, .357 OBP)
LF Eloy Jimemez (14 HR, 41 RBI, 26 runs, .296 batting, .332 OBP, .891 OPS)
1B Jose Abreu (19 HR, 60 RBI, 43 runs, .317 batting, .370 OBP, .987 OPS)
CF Luis Robert (11 HR, 31 RBI, 33 runs, 9 steals)

ATHLETICS

1B Matt Olson (14 HR, 42 RBI, 28 runs, .310 OBP)
2B Tony Kemp (15 runs, 3 steals, .363 OBP)
SS Marcus Semien (7 HR, 23 RBI, 28 runs, 4 steals)
LF Robbie Grossman (8 HR, 23 RBI, 23 runs, 8 steals, .344 OBP)

DID YOU KNOW …

a) The White Sox have been in a terrible slump over the last week-plus, dropping seven of their final eight games and averaging only 4.2 runs during this sluggish period.

On the plus side, Chicago scored 17 runs in last two outings.

b) Among AL clubs, the Athletics ranked 14th in team batting average (.225). Things were slightly better in the categories of home runs, RBI, runs, hits, steals and OPS.

In other words, if the A’s (without Matt Chapman during the playoffs) hold serious thoughts about claiming the AL pennant, it might boil down to the pitchers keeping things tight with a number of 2-1 or 3-2 victories.

c) The ‘Wild Card’ round doesn’t exist in baseball circles this season, given the super-expansion of playoff entrants (eight in each league).

However, that doesn’t mean Oakland has been spared media-induced recollections of getting bounced in the opening round for three straight postseason trips (2014, 2018-19).

d) Tim Anderson (last year’s AL batting champ; this season’s runs winner) might be an electric presence at the plate, but that success hasn’t translated to the bowels of Oakland’s archaic baseball home.

Citing 23 career at-bats at the Big O, Anderson has low-grade cumulative tallies of zero homers, zero RBI … and a head-scratching slugging rate of .130. Ouch.

PREDICTION: White Sox in 3

About The Managing Editor

Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media’s national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out NBA.com, MLB.com, PGATour.com, The Players’ Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s pre-eminent award for Best Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and the NBC/Universal family. With Sports Illustrated (2006-11), Clemons served a triple role with SI.com‘s heralded football coverage—editing Peter King’s famed ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, penning award-winning pieces for NFL and then writing/narrating scripted videos within the NFL and baseball realms. In 2013, Clemons’ first year with the company, FOX Sports South enjoyed a monumental increase of approximately 34 million Web hits in a 12-month cycle—merely posting 11 million hits the previous year. 

Then, over a two-month span in 2014, FOX Sports South amassed 19.5 million Web hits—a 60-day record for any FOX affiliate. And in 2015, Clemons claimed the aforementioned Cynopsis Media award on FOX Sports’ behalf, the company’s only national writing award during that period. Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University  and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

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