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Previewing the 2020 MLB Divisional Series

Here’s what you should know about and look out for with eight teams left

Wild Card Round - St Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres - Game Two Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The first round of the 2020 MLB postseason is in the books. From the New York Yankees’ offensive dominance to the San Diego Padres’ comeback victory, the Wild Card round did not disappoint. In addition to providing must-watch programming, this opening round of the playoffs allowed eight teams to punch their ticket to the Divisional Series.

In an interesting turn of events, all four series this week will feature divisional rivalries, which is sure to make the nationally-televised baseball that much more passionate and exciting.

Here’s a look at the four series set to be played this week with info, dates, analysis, predictions, and more.

Houston Astros vs. Oakland Athletics

Location: Dodger Stadium | Los Angeles, Calif.
Game 1: Oct. 5 at 4:07 p.m. EST
TV Network: TBS

The first of four series to be played this week pits the Astros against the Athletics in a highly-anticipated divisional battle. Houston picked up a commanding 2-0 sweep of Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card round, but they can’t bank on the Athletics to merely roll over in a similar fashion. The Astros have plenty of experience playing against Oakland and will need to combat their stellar bullpen with strong offensive production. Former stars like Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, and Josh Reddick have been silent and must reverse their woes. Meanwhile, for the A’s, one team’s weakness is another team’s area of focus. If the Athletics can successfully shut down the aforementioned Astros such as Altuve and Bregman, they can limit the rest of the lineup to minimal scoring. Finally, the Athletics will also need to focus on exposing the youth and inexperience of the Astros’ daunting pitching staff. Both teams in this matchup have glaring areas of focus, so whichever team best accomplishes their respective keys to the series will be able to finish ahead.

Prediction: Athletics win in four

Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees

Location: Petco Park | San Diego, Calif.
Game 1: Oct. 5 at 8:07 p.m. EST
TV Network: TBS

The Rays advanced to the ALDS with a commanding sweep of the Blue Jays at home. Meanwhile, New York’s bats exploded against an Indians team that was supposed to have the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Now, the Rays and Yankees collide in a series that will surely feature a flair for the dramatic as these two rivals oppose each other. In order to win this series, the Rays must be able to count on their offensive production. As the Indians showed, pitching won’t necessarily shut down a hot New York offense. For the Rays to keep up with the Yankees, they will need scoring of their own. If the Rays can execute both pitching and hitting, they should be all set—but that’s no easy task. On the other side, the Yankees look like the best team in baseball after their trouncing of Cleveland, but there’s no guarantee they’ll see the same results against a much more reliable Rays team. In order to take control of this series, New York must win Game 1 with yet another scoring barrage. Look for the Bronx Bombers to be aggressive at the plate in the early innings of the series opener, rattling the Rays’ pitching staff much like they did last week against the Indians.

Prediction: Yankees win in five

Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves

Location: Minute Maid Park | Houston, Tex.
Game 1: Oct. 6 at 2:08 p.m. EST
TV Network: FS1*

The Marlins built on their history of postseason success with a sweep of the Chicago Cubs. While Atlanta is stronger and more dominant than the Cubs, it’s tough to pick against the Marlins right now, especially with how their pitching is looking. In fact, one key to this series for the Marlins is to merely win one of their first two games. If Sandy Alcantara or Sixto Sanchez can outduel Max Fried or Ian Anderson, the power balance for the rest of the series should swing in Miami’s favor. Therefore, an additional key for the Marlins is offense production. While this is a valuable trait for all teams to possess, offensive success will be imperative against a Braves lineup that contains plenty of explosive, young bats. As for Atlanta, pitching remains the focus. The Braves couldn’t have asked for much more in their series against the Reds as they outscored Cincinnati over 22 innings, 6-0. The praise for that can be placed on Fried and Anderson, who are the clear Nos. 1 and 2 starters in Atlanta. After Anderson, though, the rotation starts to get shaky. In a series that will last somewhere between three and five games, the Braves need to be able to rely on their back-end starters and bullpen. Ultimately, the Marlins are more reliable and thus the safer pick, though the Braves will likely win Game 1 and go on to force five games.

*The Game 2 broadcast will be carried by MLB Network.

Prediction: Marlins win in five

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Location: Globe Life Park | Arlington, Tex.
Game 1: Oct. 6 at 9:38 p.m. EST
TV Network: FS1*

Arguably the most exciting series so far, the Padres and Dodgers are set to face off in a divisional clash after manager Jayce Tingler and the energetic San Diego core constructed a comeback series victory over the Cardinals. While Tingler and co. deserve plenty of praise for their skillful work in the Wild Card round, this translates into a key area of focus for the Padres ahead of the NLDS. San Diego cannot afford to fall behind in this series because the Dodgers will be far less forgiving than the Cardinals. The Padres will need to get out to an early lead against a relentless Los Angeles club, establishing their offensive production before it’s too late. As for the San Diego pitching, their rotation is a legitimate concern. Chris Paddack struggled against St. Louis while Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet can’t be relied on amidst their injury issues. Fittingly, this corresponds to a key area of focus for the Dodgers. Los Angeles will need to swing a hot bat late in games. San Diego has proven that they won’t go down without a fight. They’ve also shown that their bullpen is more than capable of thwarting opponents’ late scoring attempts. For Los Angeles to jump ahead in this series, they will look to continue their scoring late into games. Gone are the days of scoring early and relaxing in cruise control. These two teams are relentless and prepared to battle for the full nine innings on a daily basis.

*The Game 3 broadcast will be carried by MLB Network.

Prediction: Dodgers win in four