Make no mistake, the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics are World Series contenders.
They may be the wildcards in the American League, but the Athletics have as many wins as every National League playoff team but the Los Angeles Dodgers (97) and the Rays (96) have more than the St Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers.
Both of these teams are good, they just happen to have been unlucky and were stuck in divisions with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees.
So now, the Athletics and Rays face off on Wednesday for the right to take on the Astros in the American League Division Series, but they could very well get past Houston and win it all.
Here is one reason why for both teams:
Athletics: This line-up is annoying
We say this jokingly but also truthfully because this is about as pesky of a line-up as there is in MLB this year. And we do not mean they are a slap-hitting, free-running team that ekes across runs at opportune times, we mean they can score runs in multiple ways and adjust their approach to whichever pitcher they ae facing.
We will use two specific examples to prove this and they both come against the Astros. On August 17, the Athletics scored five runs in one inning of a start against Rogelio Armenteros. All six hits were singles and the first three either barely left the infield or stayed in it. Then in a September 10 game started by Wade Miley, the A's knew he was inclined to pitch to contact, so they made contact. The A's scored seven first-inning runs while Miley recorded just one out. All seven hits he allowed were singles. This team can be scrappy when it needs too.
At the same time, this team can absolutely mash. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Marcus Semien combined to hit 105 home runs this year. As a team, the A's were fifth in MLB with 257 home runs. If they need to hit home runs, they can do it.
This team are as good as any in MLB in finding a way to beat an opposing pitcher and executing their plan. That is tough for any team to deal with.
Rays: Starting pitching is healthy at the right time
Here is a hot take for you: the Rays (when healthy) have the second-best starting rotation in the playoffs this season.
Charlie Morton was an early season Cy Young contender last season and may finish third in the AL voting this year. Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young last season and Tyler Glasnow was an early contender for the award this year before he got hurt.
Now, the Rays were not healthy all year and that very well could have cost them an AL East title, though that is a bit debatable. But now, they are as healthy as they have been all season and this trio can match up with any rotation in MLB stuff for stuff one through three.
Glasnow and Snell are not extended out to where the Rays would like them to be, but with that team's bullpen, Tampa Bay's pitching is loaded going into the playoffs. It is more than enough to carry them to a World Series.
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