After advancing past division rival New York, the Boston Red Sox will have to best another one in the Tampa Bay Rays to move on to the American League Championship. Despite sitting atop the division for nearly the first four months of the season, Boston ultimately finished eight games behind the Rays.
Can they beat them in the American League Division Series?
Here are our best bets from Adam Burke and Derek Carty.
Boston Red Sox (+ 140) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (-165)
Both of these teams have incredible offenses: The Rays finished fourth in baseball with a 109 wRC+ (a measure of observed offensive quality adjusted for ballpark), while the Red Sox finished sixth at 107. Both teams have star power and solid depth up and down the lineup. And both teams profile similar in terms of their handedness advantage. Two of Boston’s three best pitchers, Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez, are left-handed. And the same can be said for Tampa’s Shane McClanahan and Ryan Yarbrough. Both teams are capable of getting very right-handed to maintain the platoon advantage, but both teams see two of their best hitters bat from the left side (Rafael Devers and Kyle Schwarber; Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe).
Starting pitching is where Boston has its biggest advantage and is what the Red Sox need to lean on if they’re going to win this series. While Chris Sale isn’t too far removed from an IL stint that cost him the entire 2020 season -- and most of 2021 -- when he’s on he’s one of the five best pitchers in baseball. He showed little in the way of rust upon return, throwing with more velocity than in 2019 and posting a 3.35 xFIP.