(1) Red Sox vs (WC) Yankees
For the first time since 2004 we will get the biggest rivalry in the sport in the form of a playoff series, and both teams this season won 100 games. This is setting up to be a series for the ages.
The Red Sox pretty much never slowed down all season, but they’ve won the AL East in each of the last two seasons and lost in the ALDS. How well they’re able to translate their regular season success this season into postseason success will be huge and it won’t be easy as they will be facing their biggest rival in a great matchup.
Starting pitching-wise I give the edge to the Red Sox and the difference to me is Chris Sale. Sale was dominant all season, and all though he has dealt with injuries this season, he is the best starting pitcher in this series and I think if the Red Sox are to win this series they will need him to perform like the best starter in this series.
The Red Sox are also going with David Price and Rick Porcello in this series and those are two guys who have pitched well in previous regular seasons but then struggled in postseasons past.
When it comes to the bullpens in this series it’s a pretty big edge to the Yankees in my opinion. The one outlier being Craig Kimbrel, who is a dominant closer and if the Red Sox get a lead going into the ninth they should win, but the gap to the closer for the Red Sox is not as strong as it is for the Yankees. Overall I give the pitching edge to the Yankees.
When it comes to the lineups I’ll give the edge to Boston just because they have a more well-rounded lineup, but it’s not like the Yankees can’t get hot with the long ball and mash their way to a series win.
The Red Sox will need guys like Chris Sale, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts to play like the stars they are in this series.
I think this series should go five and I’m going to pick the Yankees to win it because they have the better bullpen and I don’t trust David Price and Rick Porcello to be at the top of their games in the playoffs.
Pick: Yankees in five
(2) Astros vs (3) Indians
This series will feature the top two starting rotations in the playoffs and for that it will be kind of a throwback series.
Both teams have multiple guys who can dominate at an ace-like level and for that it will be really interesting.
I think the Astros have a deeper lineup, but the Indians have guys like Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez who can get really hot and drive the ball out of the ball park, but can also get on base and make damage happen by taking extra bases. Cleveland will be relaying a lot on the top of their lineup if they’re going to score enough runs to beat an Astros team that has a powerful lineup.
Cleveland will also need Corey Kulber to pitch like the ace that he is, and that’s not something he did last year in the ALDS series against the Yankees or in game seven of the World Series in 2016 against the Cubs.
For Houston they will need the top of their lineup to not try and do too much. Those guys are capable of putting up a ton of runs, but if they try and do too much I could see them getting shutdown to an extent by what is a really strong Indians starting rotation.
When it comes to the bullpen battle in this series, it’s pretty even but I’ll give a small edge to Cleveland because they have a little more depth. I don’t love either of these bullpens. The Astros bullpen seems to be a little bit better than last season, but the Cleveland bullpen has not been nearly as good as it was in past seasons with Cody Allen struggling this season and Andrew Miller dealing with injuries. Luckily for them they did go out and get Brad Hand before the trade deadline and he’s helped a lot.
These teams are really similar in my eyes and while the Astros have been better all season, I’m going to be a homer and pick the Indians to win because I’m a die-hard fan and last time they didn’t have high expectations coming into the playoffs was 2016 and they nearly won the World Series, even though their bullpen was a lot sharper that season.
Pick: Indians in five