Four Teams All With a Chance to Clinch Today
In what turned out to be a rather mild Wild Card game, the Tampa Bay Rays earned their way into the 2019 American League Divisional series in the same mode as the greater part of major league baseball this year. Five runs on four home runs and solid enough pitching. And what was their reward? A date with an absolute Buzzsaw known as the Houston Astros, who won a league-best 107 games this year.
The Houston Astros are the Monster Under Your Bed
The favorites for the 2019 American League Pennant are the Houston Astros who are now at -170. The two Cy Young favorites, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, put the Rays behind the eight-ball thanks to a pair of great starts. You know you are featuring two masters of the mound when a seven-inning shutout performance is overshadowed. Verlander paced the Astros to a Game One win, but Cole put together one of the best postseason starts in history; punching out 15 Rays in 7 2/3 shutout innings. Now it is up to Charlie Morton to try and stave off elimination.
All he has to do is defeat one of the best lineups in all of baseball featuring: Alex Bregman, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yulli Guriel, and Yordan Alvarez. In fact, seven of the nine top favorites for ALCS MVP are Astros. Even if Morton can hold off the dogs, nothing is assured as the Rays need to crack a former Cy young winner in Zack Greinke.
The Tampa Bay Rays See No Light at the End of the Tunnel
This great task falls on the shoulder of a mélange of young stars like Austin Meadows and Blake Snell, who folded together with cast-offs and misfits from other clubs and sprinkled with a grizzled veteran or two like Morton. It was a tremendous job by Rays’ skipper Kevin Cash to bring his squad to 96 wins and Cinderella status in the postseason. But now Cinderella’s slipper looks like it’s about to fall off. The Rays’ bullpen, which has been a strength of the club all year with shutdown hurlers Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, and Emilio Pagan, has been forced into mop-up service thanks to the dominance of the Astros starting pitching. For those thinking of a miracle three straight wins from the Rays, the odds are so long most sportsbooks no longer have them on the boards.
The Bronx Bombers Are Back and Getting Healthier at the Perfect Time
The New York Yankees hit a second-best 306 home runs this year on their way to an AL East crown and 103 wins. After dumping the Twins in the first two games, the Bronx Bombers are favored to finish off the Twins with odds of -1700. The Yankees rely on one of the most powerful and potent offenses in baseball history. They combine that with a starting rotation that has some glaring holes, but a strong bullpen, making them one of the most interesting teams in baseball.
Giancarlo Stanton returns from injury and hopes to erase his past postseason woes. DJ LeMahieu was the rock of the lineup all year and paced the Pinstripes in Game One thanks to a home run and four RBI en route to a Game One 10-4 win. Game Two saw more of the same, with the Yankees busting out for a seven-run third inning on their way to an eventual 8-2 victory. Now up 2-0 in the series, the Yankees are +165 to win the AL pennant, behind the Astros -170.
The Minnesota Twins Are on their Death Bed
The Minnesota Twins likewise face long odds in their ALDS series against the New York Yankees, sitting at +1100 to win the series now that they are down 2-0. The other small market club on the AL side of the ledger, the Twins set a new major league record with 307 homeruns on the season. Powering the club’s way to 101 victories, Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Mitch Garver each smashed more than 30 long balls, making the Twins team the first ever with five batters producing such pop. However, that offensive firepower has not really showed up so far in the first two games, although Jorge Polanco, Cruz, and Sano all hit home runs in Game One.
Jose Berrios has emerged as the team’s ace, but he, like many in the clubhouse, have been slowed in the latter part of the year with injuries. The young hurler could only make it through four innings in the Game One start, giving up three runs (one earned) while striking out six and issuing three free passes. The young pitching staff has been great for manager Rocco Baldelli, but their bullpen cost them Game One and feel-good story Randy Dobnak got rocked in Game Two. With the Twins on their last breaths, their odds to win the AL Pennant are astronomical; +2900.