MLB Playoff Preview: Blue Jays vs. Rangers

(Courtesy of THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

(Courtesy of THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays ended their 22-year playoff drought and sealed the AL East Division title. Now the real work begins this Thursday when the Blue Jays match up against the Texas Rangers Thursday for the ALDS at the Rogers Centre.

Both the Blue Jays and Rangers were out of the playoffs last year and under .500 on July 28, yet here they are in the ALDS. The Blue Jays finished the season with a 93-69 record and are considered one of the favourites to win the World Series. But it won’t be an easy series: like the Blue Jays, the Rangers started the season poorly, but quietly emerged as one of the hottest teams in the second half, finishing the season 88-74 to claim the AL West Division. However, the Rangers seemed to be under-shadowed by the Blue Jays’ recent success.

The Blue Jays will send David Price to start the series opener. Price has been outstanding since his acquisition from the Tigers on July 30, as he has pitched in 74.1 innings with a 2.30 ERA. However, his career numbers in the postseason don’t look promising with a 4.50 ERA. Despite this, Price remains as one of the top starting pitchers in the game. He has reached the postseason in four of the last five years and will be eager to showcase his dominance in the weeks leading up to free agency. His success will go a long way in determining how the Blue Jays fare in this crucial time.

Rangers ace Cole Hamels pitched in Sunday’s season finale, which could indicate the use of Yovani Gallardo to pitch the opener, saving Hamels for the Friday. Gallardo dominated the Blue Jays this season, pitching in 13.2 scoreless innings in two starts versus the Blue Jays this season.

The Blue Jays will be looking to rely on their powerful offence to outscore their opponent. The Blue Jays led the league in runs scored (891) and home runs (232). The Blue Jays are the only team to feature three players with 35 or more home runs and 100 or more RBI: Josh Donaldson with 41, Jose Bautista with 40 and Edwin Encarnacion with 39. In past history, offence usually drops off across the board in October, when better defence and pitching staff play and the weather cools down. However, the Blue Jays should have the advantage with their powerful bats. 

The Rangers have been very good at hitting ball. They have power and speed to score runs, ranking 3rd in runs scored (751), 11th in HR (172) and 6th in SB (101). The feature a lot of left-handed hitters such as Prince Fielder, Shin Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland and Joey Gallo. Look for the Jays to use Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup to shut down these lefties.

The Blue Jays are expected to use a four-man rotation, a seven-man bullpen and a five-man bench in the ALDS. While most of the spots are spoken for, there’s some uncertainty in the back of the bullpen and with the final bench spot. Here’s a guess at how the Blue Jays could set things up:

Projected Starting Lineup:

Ben Revere, LF

Josh Donaldson, 3B

Jose Bautista, RF

Edwin Encarnacion, DH

Justin Smoak, 1B

Russell Martin, C

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Kevin Pillar, CF

Ryan Goins, 2B

Bench:

Ezequiel Carrera, OF

Chris Colabello, 1B/OF

Dioner Navarro, C

Cliff Pennington, 2B/SS

Dalton Pompey, CF

Starting Rotation:

David Price, LHP

Marcus Stroman, RHP

Marco Estrada, RHP

R.A. Dickey, RHP

Bullpen:

Brett Cecil, LHP

LaTroy Hawkins, RHP

Liam Hendricks, RHP

Mike Lowe, RHP

Aaron Loup, LHP

Roberto Osuna, RHP (closer)

Aaron Sanchez, RHP

It’s going to be a tough challenge for the Blue Jays, but fans should embrace what they’ve been waiting for the last 22 years. The Blue Jays are in the postseason. Now their quest to win the world series is about to begin.

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