Barring a collapse of historic proportions, the Rays are going to the playoffs. The only question that remains is whether they can fight off the Yankees for the division title. But winning the East may not necessarily be the best move for the Rays.
As of today, the Twins and the Rangers hold big leads in their respective divisions. But more importantly, the Twins have a 1-game lead over the Rangers for overall record. This is important, as the team with the better record at the end of the season will host the Wild Card winner in the ALDS.
So which team would be a better first-round matchup for the Rays?
Some things to consider…
- The Twins have played a game below their Pythagorean Record (76-55). Meanwhile, the Rangers record is identical to their Pythagorean Record (74-57). So that tells us that neither team is playing way above or way below their true talents.
- Winning the division means 3 of the 5 ALDS and 4 of the 7 ALCS games would be at The Trop. If the Rays finish second in the East, they would be giving up homefield advantage in both rounds.
- In the best-of-5 ALDS against the Rangers, the Rays would have to face Cliff Lee twice. Even though the Rays are 3-0 against Lee this season, he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball and capable of shutting the Rays down. Not to mention, he now has a much better offense scoring runs for him.
- If the Rays faced the Twins, they would likely have to face Francisco Liriano two times. Not as consistent as Lee, but he can be just as dominating. In one start against the Rays this season, Liriano held the Rays to just 4 hits and 1 run in 7 innings, striking out 10. And in his career, he has a 2.16 ERA in 5 starts against the Good Guys. If there is an advantage to facing Liriano over Lee, it is that Liriano could be out of the game after 6 innings even if he is pitching well.
- Does anybody really want to face the Twins, in Minneapolis, outdoors, in October?
We are torn, but are leaning towards preferring to face the Twins. Which team would you prefer to face?