ALDS matchups include two division rivals

David Koier, Courier Staff

For the first time in its history, the MLB expanded its playoffs to 16 teams. With the shortened 60-game season, it only seemed fair to let a few more teams into the postseason; and who can complain about more baseball?

The playoffs began this Tuesday with four straight days of the opening three game series Wild Card round. After a season that was plagued with early postponements due to teams contracting COVID-19, the first round of the playoffs went off without a hitch (minus Mother Nature getting her licks in with a rain cancellation for Game 2 of the series between the Marlins and the Cubs). Nonetheless, eight teams were able to advance to the Divisional round and we fans get to enjoy another exciting week of postseason baseball.

The American League hosted some of the most entertaining games in the Wild Card round, and the entertainment looks to be carrying over to the Divisional round. Here’s a look at what to expect this week in the AL.

The American League Wild Card round was really over before it started. Out of the four different matchups, three of them ended with two game sweeps. The Oakland A’s were the only team in the AL who needed to take it to a game three after dropping the first game to the Chicago White Sox.

Both AL series are going to be some of the most interesting series in this postseason and for different reasons. Starting off with the A’s vs the Houston Astros, these divisional rivals have had some bad blood this season. Earlier in the season, A’s star Ramon Laureano started a bench-clearing brawl with the 2017 World champions after the Astros hitting coach made some remarks from the dugout.

The A’s held the second best record in the American League this season, taking the AL West crown from the Astros who have won the title for the past four seasons. While Astros bats have been silent for most of the season, the ‘Stros pitching has been a saving grace for the team. With a fire starting rotation featuring Zack Greinke, the A’s are going to have to keep their hot bats going if they are going to advance to their first ALCS since 2006.

While the A’s and Astros settle their bad blood, the Tampa Bay Rays vs the New York Yankees will be all about the bats. The Yankees lead the MLB currently in the postseason in runs (22), home runs (7), slugging percentage (.653) and on-base plus slugging (1.062). The Bronx Bombers bats proved to be the saving grace for the team after the team’s pitching allowed a whopping nine runs in Game 2 of the Wild Card round, including four in the first inning.

After Gerrit Cole, the Yanks really don’t have a strong starting rotation after being injury plagued this season. On the other side of things, the Rays have shown they have both the arms and the bats. Their bullpen leads the American League with a 1.42 ERA this postseason while their starters have posted a 1.54. On top of that, the Rays were able to rout the Blue Jays in game two 8-2.

With a rotation highlighted by Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, it almost seems inevitable that the Rays will be able to take this series. However, if the Yankees bats can continue to dominate and their pitching can hold the Rays to less than three runs a game, the Yankees may be able to once again make it back to the ALCS.