The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays will play Game 4 of their ALDS series on Friday night, with the winner advancing to face either Cleveland or New York in the ALCS. Let’s take a look at four bold predictions for this evening’s contest.
“The Tampa Bay Rays will win their first ever World Series in 2018.”
It has finally arrived. The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox will face off in the American League Division Series beginning on Thursday, after a 162-game season, 19 head-to-head matchups, and a historic Red Sox-Yankees upset in front of a home crowd at Fenway Park for the Wild Card.
The series is a story of two underdogs: the Rays lost their two aces, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, for the season due to injury or trade, while the Red Sox had practically no pitching this season, despite missing ace Chris Sale for the bulk of the season. The Rays ended with the best record in the AL, with 100 wins, while the Red Sox placed second in the AL East, where four clubs finished with 91 wins or more.
The Rays won the season series versus Boston 11 games to 8 during the regular season. However, in a short series with such high stakes, all of that goes out the window, and nothing should surprise us in October baseball. With that in mind, here are four bold predictions for the ALDS matchup between the Red Sox and the Rays.
4. Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber rake
Schwarber and Bogaerts have the ability to become hotter than almost any other batter on the world. Schwarber blasted 12 home runs in 10 games earlier this season, part of a span in which he hit 16 home runs in 18 games, both matching records for home runs in those amounts of games. Kyle could have easily led the NL, or the MLB, in dingers if he hadn’t been hurt. Bogaerts, on the other hand, has been a thorn in the Rays’ side this season. He’s batting.429 against them this season with two home runs, and these two will take the energy from their exploits in the Wild Card game (each hitting a home run) into the ALDS.
3. Shane McClanahan is a big-stage performer.
McClanahan, a prized prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays, had a fantastic rookie season, going 10-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 25 starts and a 115 ERA+. Shane struggled after being called up to make his MLB debut in the playoffs last season, but he came through in a major way after he was called back up this year, going 8 innings in his first two starts, allowing just two runs and striking out ten batters. He’s an unusual example of a rookie with postseason experience, having previously played in one playoff series (including a scoreless inning in the World Series). He’ll lead the Rays to two victories in this series under the spotlight.
2. Nathan Eovaldi outperforms Chris Sale.
Nate Eovaldi pitched five and a third innings of one-run ball against a scary Yankees lineup in the Wild Card game. With a lifetime 1.63 playoff ERA, he’s known for strong postseason performances, most notably his 6 innings of relief in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. Unfortunately, he’ll probably only be able to give this series one complete start. Chris Sale, on the other hand, may start Game 1, although his health and performance are both in doubt. He couldn’t even finish three innings in his previous start, giving up two runs on over 60 pitches in 2.1 innings. Despite the fact that he struck out seven batters, this was a crucial game for him, and he couldn’t deliver. Sale must produce if the Red Sox are to have a shot. However, it seems that this will not be the case.
1. Wander Franco is named series MVP, and the Rays advance to the next round.
Franco debuted in Major League Baseball with a lot of fanfare, but he struggled at first. In the early going, he barely hit over the Mendoza line and had little-to-no pop, but that all changed on July 25th, when he began a 43-game on-base streak, tying Frank Robinson for the longest by a player 20 years or younger. Franco’s most unique quality is that every coach who has met him praises his capacity to adapt, to maintain a level head during even the worst of downs, and to remain unfazed at the most crucial times. He completed his 70-game season hitting.288/.347/.463, and he’s on his way to becoming a household name in the playoffs, much as Randy Arozarena did last year.
The Rays are set for postseason success, with X-factors like Franco, Arozarena, Mike Zunino, Brandon Lowe, and so much more depth behind them. In the ALDS, they’ll be victorious.
PREDICTION: Rays win series 3 games to 2 against Red Sox.
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