The American League Division Series are set.
After the Tampa Bay Rays' convincing 5-1 win in the wild-card game over the Oakland Athletics, they will begin their clash with the Houston Astros on Friday.
The other teams battling it out for a place in the Championship Series will be the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, and we have previewed both match-ups.
How will the Rays' starting pitching perform?
On paper, the Rays match up with the Astros one through three. It sounds crazy but just look at the first series of the season. Houston beat Blake Snell but then lost to Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow in back-to-back games. Houston did not have Carlos Correa or Zack Greinke that time, so this series will be a touch different, but in terms of pitching talent, the Rays do match up with the Astros' staff. The big question is health, as Glasnow and Snell are recently back from injuries and not fully extended like Tampa Bay would like them to be. But if they can pitch enough to get to their stellar bullpen, then this series could be very, very tough for the Astros.
Will the Twins' home-run prowess continue?
This is a bit of a one-sided question just because the same thing could be asked of the Yankees, but New York have proved they can hit in the postseason. The Twins hit 307 homers this year, but we have no idea if that will continue in the postseason when everything gets harder. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver all had career years at the plate. If they can do what they did during the regular season they can keep up with a more proven line-up in New York. They were not able to do it in the 2017 wild-card game. Will they do it in a five-game series?
Players to watch
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Correa missed 87 games this season with back and rib injuries and was out for the final seven matches of the year after his back stiffened up on a flight to Seattle. Correa was one of the Astros' most clutch players at the plate in the 2015 and 2017 postseasons, hitting seven home runs and driving in 18 runs in 24 games. While Houston can win without him, they are undoubtedly worse when he is not in the line-up and 100 per cent fit. He is supposed to play in Game 1 on Friday but there are doubts he will get on the field.
Luis Severino, SP, Yankees
Severino made just three starts this year and it is unclear what shape he will be in for the postseason. But if he can give the Yankees five good innings against the Twins, Minnesota's chance in this series will be dealt a blow. If Severino is healthy, he and James Paxton present an imposing top two in a rotation for a potential ALCS and World Series.
Astros over the Rays in five
While the Rays can match up with the Astros pitching-wise, the odds are Tampa Bay will not be able to beat Houston in three out of four games with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Greinke starting. Tampa Bay's line-up is unlikely to be able win three games against that rotation and will probably have to if the Rays are to progress to the ALCS.
Yankees over Twins in four
Severino, Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. That should be enough to win the first three games for the Yankees, but Minnesota could get one at home. New York should have too much firepower and are as healthy as they have been all year.
|Coronavirus: David Price gives $1,000 to Dodgers minor leaguers|
|Coronavirus: MLB´s proposal for more salary cuts a non-starter – Scherzer|
|Coronavirus: Tampa Bay Rays open Tropicana Field for limited workouts|
|Rangers would prefer to hold second spring training at new stadium|
|Coronavirus: Nationals to receive World Series rings in virtual ceremony|
|Coronavirus: Former Astros, Athletics manager Howe in ICU with COVID-19|
|With the DH likely coming to all of MLB, which NL hitters would benefit the most?|
|Cashman: Yankees star Judge set to return at full capacity|
|Coronavirus: Rays star pitcher Snell refuses to play unless he gets full salary|
|Coronavirus: Nationals reliever Doolittle concerned about starting MLB season|
|Coronavirus: MLB to bring restart proposal to players, report says|
|Coronavirus: Less than one per cent of MLB employees test positive for COVID-19 antibodies|
|Coronavirus: MLB reportedly shortens 2020 draft from 40 rounds to five|
|Coronavirus: Stars salute return of baseball in South Korea|
|Red Sox outfielder Verdugo says he´s physically 100 per cent|
|Coronavirus: Rays´ Snell wins ´MLB The Show´ Players League championship|
|Former Athletics and All-Star pitcher Keough dies aged 64|
|No fans for MLB games? It´s happened before|
|Astros´ Verlander makes significant progress following groin surgery|
|Coronavirus: Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony postponed until 2021|
|Orioles star Mancini not expecting to play in 2020 due to colon cancer|
|Red Sox docked draft pick, Cora suspended one year for sign stealing|
|NTSB: MLB Hall of Famer Roy Halladay had drugs in system, doing stunts when plane crashed|
|Coronavirus: Arizona governor says state willing to host all 30 MLB teams in empty ballparks|
|Former MLB manager Jim Frey dies at 88|
|Yankees general partner, co-chairperson Hank Steinbrenner dies aged 63|
|Former All-Star Glenn Beckert dies at 79|
|Reynolds announces retirement after 13 years in MLB|
|Yankees again top Forbes´ annual MLB valuations|
|Who will shine and who will struggle due to delayed MLB schedule?|
|Coronavirus: MLB insists nothing decided amid reports season will start in May|
|MLB Hall of Famer and Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline dead at 85|
|Coronavirus: Astros pitcher Justin Verlander to donate weekly paycheques from MLB to charity|
|Cardinals´ Mikolas nearing return to mound|
|Coronavirus: Former MLB All-Star outfielder Jim Edmonds tested positive for COVID-19|
|Angels clear pitcher Griffin Canning to throw|
|Former White Sox pitcher Ed Farmer dies at 70|
|Coronavirus: Texas´ Choo giving $1,000 to all 191 Rangers minor leaguers|
|Coronavirus: MLB cancels Cubs-Cardinals London Series|
|Coronavirus: Orioles slugger Davis ´ready to roll right now´|
|Red Sox ace Sale undergoes Tommy John surgery|
|Coronavirus: Former All-Star outfielder Jim Edmonds tested for COVID-19|
|Coronavirus: MLB owners approve deal to grant players service time|
|MLB players reportedly agree to deal to keep service time|
|Rangers´ Calhoun cleared for workouts|
|White Sox option Michael Kopech to Triple A-Charlotte|
|Former Braves owner Bill Bartholomay dies at the age of 91|
|Heralded prospect McKay among Rays´ roster cuts|
|Coronavirus: MLB commissioner calls for optimism on postponed Opening Day|
|Coronavirus: Manfred says ´nothing´s off the table´ as MLB hopes to start road to comeback in May|
|Royals add Rosenthal to 40-man roster, DFA Skoglund|
|Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge still not cleared for baseball activities|
|Blue Jays GM proposes shortened doubleheaders to ease MLB schedule|
|Coronavirus: Red Sox complex shut down as minor leaguer tests positive for COVID-19|
|Coronavirus: Pirates players buy 400 pizzas for hospital staff|
|Stanton would be playing for Yankees if MLB wasn´t postponed – Boone|
|Retired MLB Gold Glove winner Ian Kinsler plans to play for Israel at Tokyo Olympics|
|Coronavirus: Seattle Mariners tell players to enter offseason mode|
|Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale could miss season due to elbow injury|
|Astros ace Verlander undergoes groin surgery|
|Coronavirus: Yankees stay in Florida with eyes on MLB World Series|
|Coronavirus: MLB delays opening day by at least two weeks|
|Coronavirus: Mariners aim to relocate opening home games of regular MLB season|
|Verlander in doubt for Astros´ MLB opener: It would take a miracle|
|Dodgers ace Kershaw named Opening Day starter|
|Yelich signs nine-year, $215m deal with Brewers|
|Yankees shut down Judge for two weeks due to rib fracture|
|Red Sox star Chris Sale avoids Tommy John surgery for now|
|Red Sox ace Sale sent for MRI due to elbow soreness|
|Red Sox ace Sale to start MLB season on IR|