Friday, September 30, 2011

American League Playoffs Start Today

After the regular reason ended with a bang on Wednesday night, the playoffs are set to begin today.  The four AL teams will face off against each other today, while the NL teams will wait until tomorrow to begin their games.  The Rays, who squeaked into the playoffs on an Evan Longoria walk-off home run on Wednesday, will play the Rangers starting at 5:07 ET in Arlington, Texas.  The Yankees and Tigers will battle in prime time (8:37 ET) at Yankee Stadium.  That should be the game to watch today, as CC Sabathia will go up against Justin Verlander.

Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers, 5:07 ET

Keys for the Rays: Right now Tampa Bay fans are proclaiming "In Matt Moore we trust."  The heralded rookie will start game one for the Rays after a stellar minor league season and a good September call-up.  Moore made his first start on September 22 pitching five innings against the Yankees, giving up no runs on four hits and striking out 11.  In 9.1 big league innings this season, Moore is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA and 15 strikeouts.  This year's Rangers team is even better than last season and their offense absolutely mashes so Moore will have his hands full.  Can he keep his composure and can the Rays score enough runs to offset the Texas lineup and their ace, C.J. Wilson?

Keys for the Rangers: C.J. Wilson has been better than expected all season and has developed into a legitimate ace.  Luckily for him, the Rangers lineup has been even better than last season.  With additions like Adrian Beltre, Texas has scored 63 more runs than they have this season.  If they can put runs on the board early and rattle rookie Matt Moore, it could be an easy opening game at home for the Rangers.

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees, 8:37 ET

Keys for the Tigers:  Justin Verlander is making his postseason start since 2006 and he is much more mature than the pitcher who compiled a 5.82 ERA in four starts during the '06 playoffs.  He was only average against the Yankees this season, with two no-decisions and a 4.50 ERA.  If the Tigers want to win the series, Verlander needs to come out firing in game one.  If he can shut down the potent New York lineup, it could signal good things for the Tigers in the ALDS.

Keys for the Yankees: If the Yankees let Verlander settle in it could be a long night, even with CC on the mound.  If Verlander can go deep into the game with a lead, the Tigers can immediately go to the best part of their bullpen, Jose Valverde, who didn't blow a save all season.  Sabathia has been spectacular for most of the season, and Yankee fans should not expect anything less tonight.


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