The season is over and the playoffs are here! We have previewed the two ALDS Game Ones for today, Thursday, October 7th, and found our best MLB picks for each!
The #2 seed Houston Astros host the #3 seed Chicago White Sox in the first of their best-of-five series while the #1 seed Tampa Bay Rays host their divisional rivals, the Boston Red Sox, who just beat the Yankees in the Wild Card Playoff on Tuesday to secure their playoff spot.
Look below to find our free MLB Picks for today’s two American League Division Series playoff games.
Chicago White Sox @ Houston Astros (Game 1) – 4pm EDT
The playoffs officially kick off with the Houston Astros hosting the Chicago White Sox. Only two games split the sides, who won the AL West and AL Central respectively, throughout the regular season however when looking at the seven games played between the two, Houston won the season series 5-2, including a 4-0 sweep at home.
Given the Astros dominated the White Sox in the four games played at Minute Maid Park during the regular season, they deserve to be favorites for this clash but this one may be closer than people expect. Houston comes into the postseason with a 4-6 record over their last 10 games while Chicago has gone 7-3 over the same stretch. Both sides have been extremely inconsistent through the second half of the season, losing games they shouldn’t and even getting blown out of the water by teams towards the bottom of the standings.
Looking at this clash, both Lance Lynn and Lance McCullers Jr starting means that the two teams want to start off strongly. The worry for Chicago is that Lynn has been a shell of himself lately, giving up six and seven runs in two of his last five games. He also performed poorly in his one matchup against Houston this season, giving up six runs on eight hits in four innings of work.
Compare that to McCullers Jr, who faced the White Sox twice and gave up just three runs on four hits in 13 innings across the two games. He also has been performing much better of late, giving up no more than three runs in a game across his last six, averaging 2.2 runs allowed per game over that stretch. That gives Houston a small edge in the pitching matchup, and since their batting lineup ranked second for OPS and first for runs during the regular season, they should be able to claim game one at home.
Tim’s MLB Pick: Houston Astros (-142)
It’s the first of a five game series between the White Sox and the Astros. The White Sox are coming into this game with a lot of confidence, after winning a number of their final games leading into the postseason. The last handful of games have been a bit of a mixed bag for the Astros, but they are playing at home for the first game which may very well give them an edge. The White Sox have won six of their previous seven games leading into this clash, and they have won 40 of their previous 81 games on the road. The Astros have won 10 of their previous 12 games when they score four or more runs, and they have won 51 of their previous 81.
Sleep well, Sox fans. We’ve got Postseason baseball tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/qFwQoPgXtw
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) October 7, 2021
This one is difficult to pick, the Astros are the deserved favorites, but there is certainly value with the White Sox. The White Sox were smart with limiting the workload of their pitchers in the last few games, so they should be fresh for this game. Lynn has been performing so well all season long with a 2.90 ERA and .229 allowed batting average. McCullers actually has a higher ERA at home than he does on the road. I’m going to go with the Astros for this one. They are a team that just knows how to get the job done in the postseason, and they have thumbed the White Sox in a few past postseason games.
Katherine’s MLB Pick: Houston Astros (-142)
The playoffs are finally here and for our first game we have the White Sox taking on the Astros. During the regular season these two teams met 7 times with the Astros winning 5 of those matchups. However when looking deeper into those games, the White Sox have beaten the Astros in their 2 most recent games in commanding fashion with a 10-1 win and 4-0 win for the White Sox. With the White Sox seemingly more in form, sporting a 7-3 record in their last 10 games, compared to the Astros, who sport a 4-6 record in their last 10 games, all signs point to the White Sox potentially starting the series strong and winning game one. The key thing to note is that the White Sox play in a significantly easier division and have finished the season with a super easy run.
However when looking at team statistics the Astros are the strong batting team by a 67 run margin, while the White Sox are the marginally better defensive team with 636 runs allowed which is 22 less than the Astros. In this game the Astros may make up on their defensive deficiencies by starting Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers had a 3.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 13-5 record in 162 innings this year. In his 2 games against the White Sox he surrendered just 3 runs and had 14 strikeouts in 13 innings. McCullers combined with the Astros strong batting make me lean toward them in game 1 despite the Astros’ recent poor form.
Boston Red Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays (Game 1) – 8pm EDT
Coming off their upset of the Yankees in the Wild Card Playoff, the Boston Red Sox get on the road to face another AL East rival, the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa finished the season eight games better off than the Red Sox and also won the season series 11-8.
This should be a pretty straightforward contest here. Boston were lucky to get into the postseason, lucky to beat the Yankees and now their luck should run out against Tampa Bay. My one query is the fact that despite the Rays winning the season series 11-8, they only went 2-3 against Boston in their last five games against them, all in September, including losing the two games played in Tampa over that stretch. That isn’t great heading into a series against them, where you have home-field advantage.
However, we see the Yankees have winning form against the Red Sox and then couldn’t get the job done on the road, so that is what I am expecting here. I also have more confidence in Shane McClanahan than I do with Eduardo Rodriguez, meaning the Rays should get off to a good start. McClanahan has better season-long figures and better recent form, indicating Tampa has the edge in the pitching department, at least to start the game. That should allow their batting lineup to get on top, given they ranked 10th for OPS, equal-sixth for home runs and second for runs this season. That is no slight on Boston’s batting lineup, as they are just as good, arguably if not better, but Tampa is the more well-rounded side and that will be on show here.
Tim’s MLB Pick: Tampa Bay Rays (-178)
With the Wild Card game out of the way the Red Sox have made it through to the proper postseason clashes, where they will take on the Rays. The Red Sox were clinical in their performance against the Yankees, and the Yankees never looked like winning that game. The Rays had a pretty decent end of the season and considering they weren’t under pressure from any other teams in the AL East, they had a pretty easy September and early October. The Red Sox have won five of their previous 10 games overall, and have won 43 of their previous 81 games on the road this season. The Rays have won 11 of their previous 19 games against the Red Sox during the regular season, and they have won 52 of their previous 81 games at home this season.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 6, 2021
McClanahan will be the starting pitcher for the Rays, and he is on a roll as of late, but this will be his first ever postseason start, so he will definitely be feeling the nerves. He has an ERA of 1.50 in his previous four starts, and has allowed only one earned run or less in those for appearances. Rodriguez has struck out 10.56 batters and walked just 2.68 batters every nine innings, which are career best figures. I’m leaning towards the Rays for this one. They have the home advantage, and McClanahan has a 3.50 ERA in 13 starts at the Trop and in three starts against the Red Sox, he has a 2.81 ERA. When it comes to Rodriguez, he has struggled against the Rays, and he also has a 16.20 ERA in eight postseason clashes.
Katherine’s MLB Pick: Tampa Bay Rays (-178)
The Red Sox fought off the Yankees to get themselves into the next round of the playoffs. They face a familiar foe in the defending champs, the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have met with the Red Sox 19 times this season as they are division rivals. The Rays have won 11 out of those 19 times. Despite the Rays possessing the better overall record, the Red Sox have won 3 of the last 5 games. The Rays have played well down the stretch with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games, maintaining a strong level of play despite starting their lesser players toward the end of the season. The Red Sox haven’t been playing as well recently with a 5-5 record despite fighting for a playoff berth. This tells me the Rays are in much better form and should be scary. The matchups between these two teams are either defensive slog fests which score extremely low or high scoring games which hit the overs easily.
The key for this matchup will be the pitching. In this game the Rays will be leaning on the trusty Shane McClanahan. McClanahan has been good this year with a 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 141 strikeouts in 123 innings. McClanahan has also been good against the Red Sox this season with just 5 runs allowed and 18 strikeouts in 16 innings. This may end up being a defensive slog fest if McClanahan can repeat his past performances. Despite me personally wanting the underdog to pull out a win here and beat the Rays, the Rays are too strong all round while the Red Sox have been faltering as of late. I have to take the Rays here.
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel.