With the Boston Red Sox eliminating the New York Yankees from the 2021 American League Playoffs with a 6-2 win in the Wild Card game — a game the Yankees were favored to win — the final four teams in the AL are set and the initial matchups for the Division Series portion of the playoffs are set. Those series are the Red Sox vs. the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox vs the Houston Astros.
Let’s look at the odds those teams have of clinching the American League pennant.
AL PENNANT WINNER
ASTROS OR RAYS?
In a division where four of the five teams won more than 90 games, the Tampa Bay Rays set themselves apart by winning 100 regular-season games (100-62). Tampa Bay also had the best road record in the American League and second-best home record. Tampa Bay’s pitching, which was first in ERA was one of the main reasons the team finished at the top of the AL standings.
Houston, who finished the 2021 season with a record of 95-67, had the best win percentage against winning teams at 45-32. The Astros batters helped the team to the top of the AL West. The club led the American League in batting average and runs, and was second in OPS.
Tampa Bay finished stronger than Houston with a 7-3 record in its final 10 games. Houston was 4-6.
These two faced off in the ALCS last year and that series went seven games. Tampa Bay took that game 4-2 and went on to the World Series, where they fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. Those defeats will hang heavy over the heads of both teams during the AL playoff rounds.
RED SOX RESET
If I had to pick an underdog in the American League, I would go with the Red Sox. Boston finished 2021 poorly. After the Yankees swept them in September, they lost two of three to basement-dwelling Baltimore. However, it only takes one game to turn things around and that game might have been the Wild Card matchup against the Yankees. The Red Sox were not picked to win that game, but they did and that win should give them confidence and momentum heading into their series with the Rays. They are going to need all the intangibles they can get to top Tampa Bay.
DO WHITE SOX HAVE A CHANCE?
It’s a seven-game series, so, yes, Chicago has a chance to get hot and stay hot long enough to pull the upset, but I don’t see that happening. The Astros won the season series 5-2 and Houston’s average run differential during those seven games was +4.75. With that, Chicago is going to need to be better everywhere for an extended stretch. That’s a big ask against this Houston team.
If you break this down to its simplest formula, Tampa Bay has the best team and plays the best team game. That depth is what’s needed in a seven-game series and that’s why they will move on to the World Series on the American League side of the bracket.
Pick: Tampa Bay Rays to win the American League Pennant: +220 via Sportsbetting.
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