While there were question marks for the National League playoff bracket heading into the last day of the season, the American League bracket was already set before the day began. By virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland Athletics knew they were hosting the Wild Card game on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the Houston Astros have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as they finished with a league-best 107 wins. Houston faces the winner of the Wild Card game between the Rays and Athletics. The New York Yankees welcome the Minnesota Twins to the Bronx for their ALDS matchup. This will be a clash of two 100+ win teams.
Here are the odds to win the 2019 American League pennant (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
|New York Yankees||+210|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+1300|
Best Bet: New York Yankees +210
After picking the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the National League pennant, I cannot go chalk twice in a row. The New York Yankees get to face off against a Minnesota Twins team that they have owned recently. The Yankees won the season series 4-2. Over the last three seasons, the Yankees are 14-6 against the Twins. From 2002-2017, New York owns an 89-33 record against Minnesota. Though the Twins won 101 games this year, their record is inflated by having two 100-loss teams in their division (the Royals and the Tigers). Though the Yankees also have the lowly Blue Jays and Orioles in their division, their 103 wins are far more impressive considering how much time many of their stars spent on the IL all year.
The Houston Astros are going to be a tough out for any team that has to face them. They will most likely have the top-two leading vote-getters in the American League Cy Young race in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The Astros are first in the league in batting average and OPS. They are second in the league in ERA and first in BAA. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Wild Card winner could beat the Astros. The Athletics swept a three-game series from Houston just three weeks ago. Also, the Rays led the league with a 3.62 ERA and possess a formidable 1-2 punch with Charlie Morton and last year’s Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.
All signs point to a rematch of a thrilling seven-game ALCS from 2017 between Houston and New York. Though Justin Verlander and the rest of the Astros pitching staff dominated that series, the Yankees matched them with a deep bullpen. The Yankees are getting healthy at the right time, with just Edwin Encarnacion looming as a potential big bat missing from their lineup.
Luis Severino will join the rotation and likely have a short pitch count. However, the way of postseason baseball lately has been to get about four or five good innings from your starter and then to hand it over to your bullpen. Therefore, even though James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino look outmatched on paper against Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke, the Yankees are going to go to their bullpen early and often anyways.
The Yankees gritted their way to 103 wins with a banged-up roster all year. The fact that they were able to get a lot of players experience throughout the year bodes well for them in the playoffs. New York won’t be fazed by playing in Houston this time around. Their veterans will work the pitch count of Houston’s starters and win games late by getting to Houston’s relievers. The New York Yankees will play in their first World Series since 2009.