Oakland vs. DetroitIt’s a rematch from last year when Detroit needed five games to beat Oakland in the divisional round to start its march to the World Series. Both teams won their divisions fairly easily this season. The Tigers led the AL Central by at least five games the final three weeks, and the A’s pulled away from the Rangers with a couple weeks left. This should be another entertaining series. Each team has legitimate World Series aspirations. The Tigers have most of last year’s team in place, while the A’s are trying to show they are capable of a deep postseason run. What’s working for the A’s: They seemed to be a fluke last year but showed they weren’t. And the nucleus gained valuable postseason experience last year. Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss had breakout seasons, and Yoenis Cespedes — even though he’s playing with a sore right shoulder — continues to provide power in the middle of the lineup. At 40, Bartolo Colon gets it done and leads the rotation, and the bullpen has been strong all season behind closer Grant Balfour and relievers Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Ryan Cook. Finally, they have home-field advantage and no team but the A’s enjoys playing at the worst stadium in the majors. Cause for concern: Oakland starter Jarrod Parker struggled in September, posting a 6.41 ERA. Another question has to be offensively and how well the A’s lineup will fare against a strong Tigers’ rotation. Josh Reddick had a strong final month, but was inconsistent throughout the season. What’s working for the Tigers: Their rotation is one of the best in a decade. The Tigers used only six starters this season. Max Scherzer is the likely AL Cy Young winner, Anibal Sanchez won the ERA title and Justin Verlander is a former Cy Young and MVP winner. And, there’s Doug Fister, who will start Game 4, and 13-game winner Rick Porcello, who is available out of the bullpen. The lineup is also potent, headlined by Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter. Cause for concern: Miguel Cabrera groin injury is a question. Cabrera is the best hitter in the game and is likely to win a second consecutive MVP award, but he had a subpar September with only two extra-base hits and one home run. If he isn’t himself, it’s a significant blow. Jhonny Peralta played the season’s final three games after serving his 50-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal, and was 3-for-12. The bullpen remains a question mark. Joaquin Benoit has been reliable as the closer, and Drew Smyly is a dependable lefty, but there isn’t much depth outside of those two. Prediction: The Tigers have the best rotation in the game, but the A’s have the right mix of players who feed off each other. After going 52-29 at home, it’s hard to pick against the A’s with home-field advantage. Oakland wins it in five.Boston vs. Tampa BayThe two best teams fro m the American League East square off. Boston is a great story, returning to prominence after a disastrous 69-win season under Bobby Valentine. Tampa Bay continues to find a way to contend despite being a small-market team with a low payroll and baseball’s lowest attendance. It should be an interesting matchup with plenty of storylines. Which playoff rotation fares better? Will a five-day layoff help or hurt the Red Sox? Is the seemingly endless travel schedule going to catch up with the Rays? What’s working for the Red Sox: What a turnaround. Not only did Boston regain contender status but it posted the best record in the AL. The Red Sox have solid pitching, evident by Ryan Dempster being sent to the bullpen. Game 1 starter Jon Lester had a 2.21 ERA in four starts against the Rays this year, Game 2 starter John Lackey has bounced back from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery and Clay Buchholz (12-1) has been effective when healthy. David Ortiz had a 30-homer season, Mike Napoli added 23 blasts and Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are good bats at the top of the order. Cause for concern: Boston hasn’t played since Sunday, which means the Red Sox can set their rotation but they’re coming off a layoff. Mike Napoli has been a threat, but he is dealing with plantar fasciitis. Closer Koji Uehara has a 1.09 ERA, but doesn’t have the greatest postseason track record. What’s working for the Rays: They are playing well at the right time, winning three do-or-die games in three different cities in four days. Even though they can’t set their rotation as desired, the Rays can have ace David Price for two starts (Games 2 and 5). The offense has also risen to the occasion in the pressure-filled games. Evan Longoria and Wil Myers are impact bats in the middle of the order, James Loney is having an impressive season and Ben Zobrist has been steady. Cause for concern: The Rays’ rotation isn’t set up how they would like. Matt Moore is starting Game 1, although he pitched well against Boston this season. Alex Cobb, one of the hottest pitchers going, will only make one start in this series (Game 3), and the Game 4 start will go to either rookie Chris Archer or Roberto Hernandez. Another issue could be a taxed bullpen, particularly setup relievers Jake McGee and Joel Peralta. Prediction: All signs point to Boston winning this series and using the extra rest to their advantage. The Red Sox won the season series, 12-7, and will take this series in four games.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison