AL Championship Series Preview
After an unusual regular season of a mere 60 games, we have reached crunch time here in the postseason. The playoffs began with an all-new format of 16 teams, and now just four remain. The Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays will duke it out in a best-of-seven series for the right to represent the American League in the World Series.
The biggest story coming out of the 2020 offseason was how the Houston Astros were caught stealing signs during their 2017 World Series championship run. Team owner Jim Crane fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch in response to these accusations. The Astros then hired seasoned veteran Dusty Baker to manage their club for the 2020 campaign.
After losing star pitcher Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees in free agency, the Astros looked to rely on future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. Unfortunately for Houston, Verlander's season ended after one start due to an elbow injury, which later required Tommy John surgery.
To make matters worse, it is unknown whether current ace Zach Greinke will be ready for the ALCS.
But, even after finishing the regular season with a losing record, the Astros have the prior playoff experience that will them tremendously.
That experience has already been shown, as the Astros easily defeated the Minnesota Twins in two games, as three ninth-inning runs secured their win in the opening contest. A two-RBI performance from Kyle Tucker sealed the Twins' fate in the decisive Game 2.
In their ALDS series against the Athletics, the Astros torched Oakland's pitching staff. Houston scored 33 runs over 35 innings, averaging 8.25 runs per game.
On the other side, the Rays steamrolled opponents in the regular season on their way to the best record in the American League at 40-20. Tampa Bay then made short work of Toronto in the first round, sweeping the Blue Jays 2-0 behind two superb pitching performances from Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow.
Tampa Bay's division series against the Yankees was an instant classic filled with brilliant pitching matchups, numerous home runs and one great story.
Tampa Bay ran into Gerrit Cole in Game 1 and took the loss. But the Rays took the next two behind the power of Randy Arozarena and Kevin Kiermaier, whose three-run blast in Game 3 propelled Tampa Bay to a 2-1 series lead. New York bounced back the next night to tie the series with a solo fly from 2020 home-run king Luke Voit and a two-run missile from Gleyber Torres.
The winner-take-all Game 5 brought a matchup of Cole versus Glasnow. The 6-foot-8-inch Glasnow threw 2 ⅓ scoreless innings, doing precisely what manager Kevin Cash asked of him.
Yankee right fielder Aaron Judge initiated the scoring with an opposite-field bomb to right in the fourth. Austin Meadows answered with a solo homer of his own in the fifth.
The score remained 1-1 until the bottom of the eighth when first baseman Mike Brosseau, who entered the game in the fifth, hit a shot to left. The former undrafted free agent gave the Rays the lead for good and wrote himself into Tampa Bay Rays lore with that blast.
The slew of strong, reliable arms like Nick Anderson and Pete Fairbanks are critical for a Tampa Bay victory in the ALCS. Despite their talented starting pitching, the Rays have had only one game in which the starter lasted at least six innings this postseason.
There's a reason the Rays were the top seed. They are simply a better team than Houston. They have the offense and the deep pitching staff to get it done. The Astros do have experienced, dangerous hitters on their side, but as the age-old adage goes, good pitching beats good hitting every single time.
Prediction: Rays win in 6
MVP: Randy Arozarena
JC Colavita is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Second-year / Broadcast Journalism
JC Colavita is a second-year broadcast journalism student in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. He is involved in CommRadio and hopes to hone his broadcasting skills calling Big Ten sports and enhancing his knowledge of sports and entertainment through his production of talk shows and podcasts. He has worked in college summer baseball as he worked for the 2021 Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League Champion Trenton Generals as the lead play-by-play man for their Youtube stream. At Hopewell Valley Central High School in Pennington, New Jersey, JC was a TV video and production class member where he wrote, filmed, edited and produced weekly segments, focusing on both professional and high school. As a driven and passionate broadcast journalism student who dreams of one day calling sports on the biggest stage, he intends to utilize his talents in front of and behind the camera to reach his goals. In the future, he hopes to be immortalized as the voice behind one of the most impactful moments in sports history.