6. Anaheim Angels (86-76) at 3. Oakland Athletics (86-76)
The good news? Despite finishing the season on a four-game slide the A’s won a tiebreak to claim the American League West. The bad news? Oakland faces divisional foe Anaheim in a tricky first round matchup.
While the Athletics won the season series six games to four, the Halos rebounded from a season-opening four game sweep in Oakland winning the final two series.
The Angels finished the regular season ranked fourth in the AL with a .275 team average and scored 843 runs, fifth in the junior circuit; while the Athletics are buoyed by a solid pitching staff that posted a 3.90 team ERA, second only to the Yankees in the AL.
Anaheim has to be considered the favorite in this series as the Angels have been a playoff team in each of the last eight seasons, including World Champions two years ago. Oakland, making its second playoff appearance in the last three years, will need dominant pitching as its lineup won’t be able to keep pace with the Halos in a slugfest.
Prediction: Angels take the series, 3-1
5. Charlotte Knights (90-72) at 4. Toronto Blue Jays (82-80)
The Knights cruised to the first wildcard after losing the division race to the juggernaut Rangers in the season’s first month and actually finished with the American League’s third best record. Toronto took advantage of a weak AL North to claim the franchise’s first-ever division title, finishing two games above .500 in the regular season.
With offenses that are nearly identical, Charlotte holds a slight pitching edge and an excellent bullpen. If Toronto sluggers J.J. Perez and Carlos Cruz can get to Charlotte’s starters early, the Blue Jays should win this series.
Prediction: Toronto wins 3-2