Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox (-135, 6.5)
The Tampa Bay Rays have been in playoff mode for the last few weeks while battling for the wild card, winning a one-game tiebreaker in Texas on Monday and taking the one-game wild card playoff in Cleveland on Wednesday. Their reward is a trip to face the well-rested and top-seeded Boston Red Sox on Friday in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. The Red Sox will be playing for the first time since ending the regular season on Sunday.
Boston played an intersquad game on Wednesday to keep everybody fresh but will need to get into playoff mode quickly after spending the bulk of September comfortably ahead of the rest of the AL East. The Red Sox took 12 of the 19 meetings against Tampa Bay during the regular season, including two of three on the road from Sept. 10-12 to help put the division out of reach. The Rays won 10 of their last 12 going back to the regular season, with the pitching holding opponents to 2.83 runs in that span.
TV: 3:07 p.m. ET, TBS
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rays LH Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29 ERA) vs. Red Sox LH Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)
Moore finished out the regular season with wins in each of his last two starts but struggled with his command in September, issuing 20 walks in 29 total innings over six starts. The 24-year-old had one of his best starts at Boston on July 22, allowing just two hits and walking one in a shutout. Moore is making his third career postseason appearance - second start - and yielded a total of one run on three hits in 10 innings during the 2011 ALDS.
Lester had a string of nine straight quality starts come to an end at Baltimore last Saturday, when he was reached for four runs on nine hits in five innings. The 29-year-old faced Tampa Bay four times in the regular season and went 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA, including a win in the most recent meeting on July 23. Lester is 2-3 with a 2.57 ERA in eight career postseason games - six starts - but went 0-2 against the Rays in the 2008 ALCS.
* Under is 6-1 in Lester's last seven home starts vs. Rays.
* Rays are 4-1 in the last five meetings in Boston.
* Under is 21-6 in the last 27 meetings in Boston.
1. The Red Sox are expected to go with Jonny Gomes in left field against the left-handed Moore over Daniel Nava and Mike Carp.
2. The Rays beat Boston in seven games in the 2008 ALCS - the only postseason meeting between the teams.
3. Tampa Bay 3B Evan Longoria is batting just .196 with 34 strikeouts in 26 postseason games.
Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics (+112, 6.5)
Oakland Athletics have a recent history of making the playoffs only to
disappoint when the postseason begins. They will set about changing that
when they host the Detroit Tigers in the opener of the American League
Division Series on Friday. The Tigers are enjoying their third straight
trip to the postseason and advanced to the Championship Series in each
of the past two seasons.
The Athletics made the playoffs six
times since 2000 and advanced past the Division Series only once, when
they were swept out of the ALCS by Detroit in 2006. The Tigers played
heartbreaker for Oakland last October as well, claiming a 6-0 victory in
a decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. The big difference this time around is
the health of Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is dealing with
abdominal and groin injuries and managed just two extra-base hits in his
final 25 games.
TV: 9:37 p.m. ET, TBS
WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid 70s with clear skies and winds blowing NNE at 6 mph.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers RH Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) vs. Athletics RH Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65)
is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award and finished the season
with a gem, striking out 10 and allowing two hits in seven scoreless
innings at Minnesota. The 29-year-old punched out eight and yielded an
unearned run on three hits 5 1/3 innings against Oakland in Game 4 last
October but was left without a decision when the bullpen blew the save.
Scherzer was lit up by the Athletics on Aug. 29, surrendering six runs
(five earned) over five innings in another no decision.
finished up the season with four straight wins, posting a 1.04 ERA and
issuing only four walks in that span. The burly veteran went up against
Scherzer on Aug. 29 and did not factor in the decision, allowing one run
on seven hits in five innings. Colon missed the playoffs last season
but is 2-3 with a 3.61 ERA in nine career postseason starts.
* Over is 6-0 in the last six meetings.
* Over is 4-1-2 in Scherzers last seven starts vs. Athletics.
* Under is 5-2-1 in the last eight meetings in Oakland.
Athletics LF Yoenis Cespedes (shoulder) is hoping to play the outfield
on Friday but could be stuck at DH, leaving Brandon Moss in left.
2. Detroit RHP Bruce Rondon (elbow inflammation) and LHP Phil Coke (forearm) will not appear in the ALDS.
Oakland RHP A.J. Griffin, who posted a 3.83 ERA over 200 innings in the
regular season, was left off the ALDS roster due to mild tendinitis in
his right elbow.