One big difference in the Major League Baseball playoffs this year, beyond the obvious ones like no crowds at games, is very few off-days. There will be two off-days in the World Series. But no off-days before that. We saw the wild card round of three games (if needed) in three days. The American League Division Series will begin Monday with five games in five days, if needed. The National League Division Series starts Tuesday and will be played for five straight days, if necessary. Same with both League Championship Series, which will be best-of-seven affairs.
The World Series will begin Tuesday, Oct. 20 and is scheduled to include off-days after the second and fifth games, as it normally would for travel days.
That is another big difference this year - the neutral sites.
The ALDS will begin on Monday. The No. 2 seeded Oakland Athletics, the AL West Champions, will meet the No. 6 Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles at 4:07 p.m. ET. Later, the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays will play their AL East rivals, the No. 5 New York Yankees, at San Diego's Petco Park at 8:07 p.m. ET.
The NLDS will start on Tuesday and times have not yet been set. The top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers will meet the No. 4 San Diego Padres at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The No. 2 seed Atlanta Braves will play No. 6 Miami at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
The ALCS will be played at San Diego and the NLCS in Arlington, which will also host the World Series.
All four of the upcoming matchups are intradivision series, which is interesting. In a year when clubs played only within their geographic divisions, these teams have already played each other 10 times.
In the AL, the Rays went 8-2 against the Yankees and Oakland went 7-3 against Houston. In the NL, Atlanta was 6-4 versus Miami and the Dodgers went 6-4 against the Padres. That last matchup is rather anticipated, with the 43-win Dodgers against the 37-win Padres, who won the last two games of their series against St. Louis to advance.
By the way, there will be some fans at upcoming games. MLB will allow a limited number of fans to attend the NLCS in Arlington. In conjunction with the Texas Rangers, MLB will make approximately 11,500 tickets available for each game, with 10,550 fans spread throughout the ballpark and 950 in suites.
Tickets for the seating bowl will be sold in groups of four contiguous seats, called pods. Individuals may purchase a limit of one pod per NLCS and World Series game. Each pod will be a minimum of six feet from the others, and no seats will be sold within 20 feet of where a player can be located on the field, in the dugouts or in the bullpen. Masks will be mandatory for all fans.
Do the Rays have a confidence edge when they play the Yankees after doing so well against them? During this season they had a six-game win streak against New York, becoming the first club since the 2011 Red Sox to win six in a row over them in the same year. Tampa Bay is 7-1 the last eight against the Yankees.
They pitched them well, allowing 34 runs in 10 games to New York with a 3.39 ERA. New York batters hit .218/.301/.383 with a .683 OPS against Tampa Bay. By contrast, the Orioles went 4-6 against the Rays, scored 32 runs and hit .235.
The Rays and Yankees have a long history of tension between the teams, although they have never met in the playoffs. On Sept. 2, when they last played this season, New York closer Aroldis Chapman fired a 101-mph fastball over the head of the Rays' Mike Brosseau, causing the benches to clear, and he was suspended three games.
During his postgame media session that night, Rays manager Kevin Cash said "somebody has to be accountable" before adding: "I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph. Period."
I predict the Rays will handle the Yankees and Oakland will also advance, although I project they get a real tough series from Houston. I like Los Angeles and Atlanta to advance in the NL.