For the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and thanks to an 11th inning walk-off last night, the Toronto Blue Jays, the road to the American League pennant begins on Thursday as the four teams will pair off in the Best-of-5 ALDS.
The Blue Jays will take on the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s ALDS, one that was won by Toronto, who came back from a two games to none deficit to overcome Texas (4.38pm ET Thursday on TBS).
As many will probably remember, this series was quite contentious and featured two bench clearing brawls in the fifth and final game alone. This attitude continued into the regular season as these two teams almost came to blows yet again. Needless to say, there is no love lost between the Blue Jays and Rangers. All eyes will be on this series to see what happens this time around.
Meanwhile, a much lesser rivalry comes in the second ALDS series between the Red Sox and Indians as current Cleveland manager Terry Francona leads his new team into Fenway Park to face the Red Sox. (8.08pm ET Thursday on TBS).
Of course Francona managed the Red Sox to victories in both the 2004 and 2007 World Series. That will certainly be a storyline to follow, as will that of David Ortiz as this will be his last ALDS as a player given his impending retirement at the end of the season.
According to Bovada Sportsbook, who are providing both individual game lines and AL pennant futures, both the Red Sox and Rangers are tied as +200 favorites to advance to the World Series. The Blue Jays come in third at +275 and the Indians in fourth at +375.
Let’s take a look at the ALDS match-ups, give our predictions and conclude with betting picks.
Toronto Blue Jays vs Texas Rangers Picks & Predictions
- Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 6 in Texas, 4:30 p.m. ET, TBS
- Game 2: Friday, Oct. 7 in Texas, 1:00 p.m. ET, TBS
- Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 9 in Toronto, 7:30 p.m. ET, TBS
- Game 4 (if necessary): Monday, Oct. 10 in Toronto, Time TBD, TBS
- Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 12 in Texas, Time TBD, TBS
The Blue Jays won the regular season series between the two four games to three, however it is the most recent game, won by the Rangers, that is the one everyone has been talking about. That is because on May 15th in Arlington, Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor slugged Blue Jays’ outfielder Jose Bautista in the jaw in retaliation for the bat flip following Bautista’s ALDS clinching home run from last season.
Texas led the AL this year with 95 wins, thanks to offensive rankings that were good enough for top 10 in runs (7th), hits (8th), home runs (7th), RBI (4th), average (5th), slugging (6th) and OPS (10th). They didn’t necessarily do one thing better than any other team but they certainly did several things really well. Texas boasts one of the most balanced line-ups, hitting for both power and average, which is a great thing to have.
They will need it against the Blue Jays, who rely on the home run ball to win. Ordinarily, this isn’t always the best way to go but Toronto is coming off a game where they just hit three of them, using the long ball to score four of their five runs. No other team in baseball has the home run depth of the Blue Jays either, as six players on the team have hit 20 or more home runs this season.
However, as good as Toronto’s power has been, the team’s real strength lies in its pitching, which led the league in ERA (3.78) and batting average against (.242). This is thanks to guys like Aaron Sanchez (pictured), who emerged as the team’s ace, JA Happ, who won 20 games and Francisco Liriano, whose veteran experience and team leading 2.92 ERA gave the Blue Jays incredible depth among all five starters.
The biggest difference between this year and last for Toronto is that they finally have the pitching to back up the bats. This could mean a long run in the playoffs.
- Betting Pick: Take the Blue Jays in five.
Cleveland Indians vs Boston Red Sox Picks & Predictions
Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 6 in Cleveland, 8:00 p.m. ET, TBS
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 7 in Cleveland, 4:30 p.m. ET, TBS
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 9 in Boston, 4:00 p.m. ET, TBS
Game 4 (if necessary): Monday, Oct. 10 in Boston, Time TBD, TBS
Game 5 (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 12 in Cleveland, Time TBD, TBS
The Indians finished the season with 94 wins, just one more than Boston. The Indians had a 14-game winning streak, just three more than Boston’ 11. Both teams are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and as I mentioned earlier in this preview, both teams also know what it’s like to be managed by Terry Francona.
In short, these are two very similar teams, that at various points throughout the season looked like it would be them and not Texas, which finished with the AL’s best record.
Offensively, these are two of the best teams in baseball. The Red Sox led baseball with 5.42 runs per game, which was the second best mark since 2009. They also led MLB in team batting average (.282), on base percentage (.348) and slugging percentage (.461).
While not as impressive, the Indians did well for themselves, finishing with the second highest runs per game in the AL (4.83) and fourth highest overall. They were also fifth in batting average (.262). Needless to say, these teams can rake.
Like the Blue Jays and Rangers, these two teams do have some postseason history as in 2007, when the Red Sox won the World Series, they met Cleveland in the ALCS. The Indians actually had a 3-1 lead in that series before Boston battled to rally and win the series in seven games. Now, that was 11 years ago so it’s unlikely to really be in the back of these teams’ minds. If it is, then it is because of Francona, who was on the right side of the comeback last time and certainly doesn’t want to be on the wrong side this year with his new team.
Francona obviously is hoping it doesn’t come to that but if it does, the Indians have the edge thanks to their home field advantage. At Progressive Field, the Indians were 52-28 during the regular season, with an incredible +105 run differential at home. On the road however, the Indians were barely above a .500 team with a 41-39 record and actually a -4 run differential. A game five at home therefore could make all of the difference.
- Betting Pick: Take the Red Sox in five. They can be backed to win this series at -165 odds with any of 5Dimes, Bovada and BetOnline Sportsbooks.
- Check back here at USA Betting for our NLDS preview with more betting picks’ predictions.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.