Karpin’s Korner: Who Will Be MLB’s Final Four?

Call it karma, call it fate, the Yankees and Rays were somehow destined to meet in the 2020 post season. In the words of Jim Lange, the host of that old game show, “The Dating Game”, “Here they are!”

The bad blood between these teams is real and it goes back a ways, before the 2020 season. The Rays won 8 of the 10 meetings between the teams during the regular season, including 5 of 6 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees get somewhat of a break in that they won’t have to meet the Rays on their turf, aka “The Trop.” Both teams are unfamiliar with Petco Park, a ball park that plays well for the pitchers. The Rays are no neophytes to post season baseball. They are battle tested and they don’t need to prove (to Luke Voit) that they have no fear of the Yankees.

Tampa Bay does not have a star studded lineup like the Yankees do, but they have an efficient offense and they rarely pass up scoring opportunities. The Rays are solid defensively, they will be aggressive on the base paths and can employ a level of small ball when it’s called for.

The Yankees were able to slug their way past Cleveland but they won’t be able to count on that against the Rays pitching staff. The Yankees were 6 for 21 (.286) with RISP vs. the Indians but it will be harder to improve on that number vs. Tampa Bay. Aaron Judge had a big home run in his first at-bat of the series but was 0 for 8 after that. Aaron Hicks was 1 for 8 and that hit was misjudged into a triple. They will need to pick it up. Gleyber Torres is a key because you see how good the offense is when he’s swinging a hot bat.

It’ll be interesting to see if Manager Aaron Boone goes with Clint Frazier against Rays ace left hander Blake Snell, or he gambles and goes with Brett Gardner, who has swung the bat well lately but has not had success against southpaws this season.

During the regular season, the Rays hit 16 home runs in ten games against the Yankee pitchers. Watch out for Randy Arozarena, who was acquired from the Cardinals in January and may be starting to blossom while Yandy Diaz is dangerous if he’s in the lineup. The Yankees will need to limit the traffic on the bases and keep the ball in the park.

It’s obvious that game one is extremely important and the Yankees are counting on Gerrit Cole to deliver once again, as he did in game one with 13 K’s vs. the Indians. Snell will attack the Yankee power hitters with a live fastball and knock out slider. Cole is 0-3, 4.07 ERA in 7 career games vs the Rays but those numbers won’t matter going into this one. If Cole is on, the Rays will have a tough time. Same goes for Snell against the Yankees.

Tampa Bay’s bullpen may be deeper than the Yankees and has been more reliable in recent days. The Rays will run on the Yankee pitchers, particularly the relievers. The Yankees defense was not really tested against Cleveland. We know how good Gio Urshela is at third but Voit is not the greatest glove at first. Torres has been erratic at times and the outfielders will need to get used to the corners and sharp angles to play the bounces in right field and left center field.

Yankees will need to play mistake free baseball because the Rays don’t make many and they will take advantage of an opponent’s miscues.

Will the Yankees be able to carry the momentum from the Indians series into this ALDS vs. the Rays? Tampa Bay is a much better team than Cleveland and I think they’re going to be a tough out.

Rays in 5

A’s/Astros @ Dodger Stadium

Oakland cleared a huge hurdle by coming from behind in game three and the series to beat the White Sox. Now they get a Houston team that pulled off a bit of a surprise by extending Minnesota’s post season misery. A’s were 7-3 vs. Houston during the regular season.

The A’s have an underrated pitching staff that ranks top-10 in the American League in numerous categories. Oakland also has more depth in the bullpen.

Not having third baseman Matt Chapman is a huge loss but left hand hitting Jake Lamb is a former All Star who could be a factor against Houston’s right handed pitchers.

Astros left hander Framber Valdez has one of the best curveballs in the sport and he dominated the A’s in early August. Valdez went 7 innings against the A’s and gave up one earned run but he took the loss in a 3-1 game. (A’s pitcher Frankie Montas did a little better in that game throwing seven scoreless)

Despite their down seasons, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and company still have the pedigree so the A’s will need to limit their opportunities. Oakland has been knocking at the door and the Astros are vulnerable.

Oakland in 4

Braves/Marlins @ Minute Maid Park

There’s no doubt Miami is playing with “house money” against Atlanta, but they are a divisional opponent and a dangerous opponent. During the regular season, Miami went “toe-to-toe” with the Braves except for a couple of blowouts including that 29-9 thrashing in late September.

Despite dealing with a rain out in Chicago, Miami gets to use their top 2 starters in the first two games of this series. Sandy Alcantara, who did not face the Braves during the regular season, won game 1 vs. the Cubs with 6 2/3 innings of one run ball. Sixto Sanchez is electric and tossed 5 scoreless vs. the Cubs in game two. He also had a six inning scoreless outing vs. the Braves in September.

The Braves have a deep lineup but the key for Miami is keeping them off the board early while keeping the ball in the ballpark. Atlanta’s Max Fried is a Cy Young candidate, but he’ll be under pressure to pitch well in game one, while Miami comes in loosey-goosey. Atlanta has depth in the bullpen but Mark Melancon can still cough it up once in awhile.

I’m going with an upset. Miami in five

Padres/Dodgers @ Globe Life Park

Dodgers are the most consistent and complete team in the field and they are on a mission to end the 32 years championship drought. LA went 6-4 against the Padres during the regular season, but two of those losses were by one run.

The Padres have loads of young talent led by Fernando Tatis Jr. but there is still an inexperience factor. Veterans like Manny Machado,Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer have played in a division series before, but they may be running into fate.

The Dodgers’ pitching is superior to the Padres and that will spell the difference. San Diego will be troublesome but won’t have enough to pull off the upset.

Dodgers in 4

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