After one of the greatest final regular season days in Major League Baseball history, the American League Divisional Series kicks off on Friday with two intriguing matchups.
Both series have plenty of story lines. The Rangers face a Rays squad that is probably still trying to grasp their amazing comeback and good fortune, but have to feel a little exhausted as they face a rested Texas squad.
The Yankees are probably feeling a strong sense of schadenfreude after watching the Red Sox lose in humiliating fashion, but now have important matters of their own to attend to. The Tigers will be a major test for the Bronx Bombers.
The Tigers - Yankees series pits perhaps the two best starters in the American League. Justin Verlander has the Cy Young award wrapped up, and though CC Sabathia hasn't been as dominant as he's been in previous seasons, he remains perhaps the most durable pitcher in baseball.
Verlander ended the season with a 2.40 earned run average this season, and gave up three earned runs in the six innings he pitched at Yankee Stadium. Sabathia finished the season with a 3.00 ERA, but was slightly worse at Yankees Stadium with a 3.07 ERA.
Against Detroit this season, Sabathia has a 4.15 ERA, while Verlander has an overall 4.50 ERA against the Yankees.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not use David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera against the Rays, so he will have his three best relievers rested for the Tigers.
Game Two should be much different for the Tigers. They will face young Ivan Nova, and have hot Doug Fister on the mound. Fister, who arrived from the Seattle Mariners at around the trade deadline, is 7-0 with a 0.65 ERA in his last eight outings.
Game Three features Detroit's Mad Scherzer and Freddy Garcia. There have been questions about the Yankees' starting pitching beyond Sabathia, so it will be interesting to see how the Tigers match up against Nova and Garcia.
The Yankees have the second best offense in the American League, with the Tigers a distant fourth.
As for the Rays - Rangers series, Game One will have rookie Matt Moore on the mound for Tampa Bay, in easily the most surprising start of the postseason. Moore is only 22, and hasn't even pitched 10 innings in his career.
Tampa's bats will have a challenge facing C.J. Wilson. The southpaw finished the season with a 2.94 ERA in more than 223 innings, but has been weaker at home than on the road, with a 3.69 ERA at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Wilson has a 2.08 ERA against the Rays in nearly 22 innings this season.
Game Two will have young starter Derek Holland on the hill for the Rangers. Holland has struggled against the Rays this season, posting an ERA of 5.84 in over 12 innings against Tampa. Meanwhile, James Shields, who deserves some consideration for the Cy Young, takes the mound for the Rays, and pitched eight scoreless innings against Texas earlier this season at Arlington.
The pitching matchups aren't set for Game Three on Monday. The Rays would likely start David Price, while the Rangers would probably start Colby Lewis. Jeremy Hellickson, who is an emerging talent and one of the best young pitchers in baseball, would then start Game Four, while Matt Harrison starts for Texas.
Texas has the better offense, as the Rangers are third the AL in runs, and the Rays are eighth in the league in runs.
PREDICTION: Tigers defeat the Yankees in four games. Rangers defeat the Rays in four games.