October 05, 2017
By: Steve Degler

The American League's two best-of-five division series begin today. The wild-card game winners, the New York Yankees, will play the Cleveland Indians in one series while the Boston Red Sox will meet the Houston Astros in the other.

Let's start with the Yanks and the Central Division champion Indians who fell in a seven-game World Series against the Chicago Cubs last year. Cleveland dominated the regular season series, taking five of seven games against New York. The Yankees hit just .206 against the formidable Cleveland pitching staff. Gary Sanchez had particular trouble with just two hits in 22 at-bats. New York struck out 65 times in the seven meetings. 

After a slow start, the Indians finished with a flourish. At one point they won an AL record 22 straight games. Cleveland is going to run a bevy of quality arms to the mound. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer form the core of a great rotation. Throw in the likes of Danny Salazar, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to make it even more difficult to score runs. Offensively, Edwin Encarnacion has been a huge addition and Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are two of the best young players in the game. If the Tribe gets the often injured Michael Brantley back at some point, they will be tough to beat. New York will have its hands full regardless.

The second series features a pair of division winners. Houston took the West title while Boston claimed its second straight East crown. Houston held a slight advantage in the regular season series, winning four of seven games. But the numbers were heavily tilted toward the Astros. The outscored the Red Sox 35-22 and outhit them .289 to .204.

Houston is loaded and got even better when they traded for Justin Verlander. Dallas Keuchel is another top of the rotation starter. Former Phillies Ken Giles is the closer. The offense is loaded with talent. Likely MVP Jose Altuve is the best "little guy" in the game. Carlos Correa and George Springer aren't exactly slouches. Not too many weaknesses to be found on this team.

Boston is a very young team that has been prone to bouts of inconsistency. Which Red Sox team shows up? That's the big question for me. They don't hit many home runs but they can score some runs. Young talent is everywhere. Mookie Betts. Andrew Benintendi. Rafael Devers. Xander Bogaerts. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Dustin Pedroia is the veteran guy who has been through all of this many times. Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz must be on top of their games if the Red Sox are to have a chance. The rest of the rotation can be shaky. Closer Craig Kimbrel is tough to beat but he can get into a rut from time to time where he really works hard to get outs.

Predictions: It's very hard to pick against the Indians. They seem destined to get back to the World Series and win it this time. The Yankees have had a great season but this is the end of the line. Better get them now American League!! This team is built to be good for many seasons. I'll take Cleveland in four games, but a sweep would not surprise me. The Astros are in a very similar situation. This team has been well constructed. Boston was swept in this round by Cleveland last year. The Red Sox are definitely good enough to win this series but they won't. Altuve (.417) and Correa (.524) torched them during the regular season. Look for more of the same. Houston in four games.