PITTSBURGH -- The sound you heard late Tuesday night was TV sports executives silently sobbing about the American League division-series matchups. The Yankees eliminated, the A.L. matchups feature teams that in general, few care about outside their local markets.
This is wrongheaded thinking, in my view. There are great storylines for all four teams vying for the A.L. pennant, and even though MLB has lost the No. 1 TV market (for A.L. games, anyway; the Mets keep New Yorkers in the hunt), these games will feature the No. 5 (Dallas-Ft. Worth) and No. 10 (Houston) TV markets, according to Nielsen (link opens .pdf).
The Blue Jays are an offensive juggernaut who just missed scoring 900 runs (their total of 891 was 127 more than anyone else). They also just missed having three 40-homer players (Josh Donaldson had 41, Jose Bautista 40 and Edwin Encarnacion 39). It's their first postseason appearance in 22 years and they have an entire country of 35 million people behind them. Their stadium is a bit outdated, but it should be rocking.
The Rangers are unexpectedly back in the postseason after a two-year absence. Though they had the "worst" record of any division winner (88-74), they went 38-22 after August 1, second-best in the American League behind the Jays. Prince Fielder had a fine year coming back from injury that hardly anyone has noticed (.305/.378/.463, 23 HR, 98 RBI), and Adrian Beltre continues to put together a Hall-of-Fame career.
The Royals were everyone's darlings during their amazing playoff run last year, which came up one run short of a World Series win. Now expectations are higher, and K.C.'s 95 wins (most in the A.L.) are their most since their Series year of 1980. They win primarily by getting ahead early and leaving the game to their lockdown bullpen, although that pen is hurting with the absence of Greg Holland . Wade Davis takes over as closer.
You likely saw the Astros shut down the Yankees Tuesday night. Beyond Dallas Keuchel, their starting pitching isn't quite as good; they've won games by bludgeoning their opponents with home runs (230 of them, second to the Jays). Former Cub Luis Valbuena hit 25 of those homers; the trade bringing Val-B to Houston for Dexter Fowler clearly helped both teams -- exactly what a good trade should do.
Oh, you want a prediction. OK, off the top of my head: Royals over Astros in four. Houston's good, but it's not quite their time yet. Blue Jays over Rangers in five. Either series could go the other way if a team gets hot; pitching often trumps hitting in the postseason.
Here's the rest of the info you need for today's games.
Rangers at Blue Jays, 2:30 p.m. CT. Yovani Gallardo vs. David Price. TV: FS1. Announcers: Kenny Albert, Harold Reynolds, Tom Verducci and Ken Rosenthal.
MLB.com Gameday for Rangers/Blue Jays
Astros at Royals, 6:30 p.m. CT. Collin McHugh vs. Yordano Ventura. TV: FS1. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz and Jon Paul Morosi.
MLB.com Gameday for Astros/Royals
This will be the only thread for today's games. Enjoy, and discuss amongst yourselves.