It’s a new day as the Toronto Blue Jays look to bounce back against the Texas Rangers in game two of the ALDS. A 5-3 loss in the Thursday opener also cost the Blue Jays two of their stars in Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, but there’s optimism that both return for this early afternoon rebound.
Trending now: Blue Jays injury updates, Price’s game one breakdown
The second game of a five-game series is the ultimate tipping point, where one team risks putting themselves in a situation where they would need to win out to advance. Not the ideal situation for the Jays, especially with Cole Hamels getting the nod for Texas, but there’s no time like the present for the playoff debut of the Stro Show.
If Marcus Stroman‘s recovery had followed the expected timeline, Toronto would be sending one of Marco Estrada or R.A. Dickey to the mound this afternoon. Fine matchups for games three and four, but underdogs against Hamels. Stroman’s storybook return has given the Jays rotation a shot in the arm, and he quickly finds himself in the biggest start of his career on home turf.
The Rangers lefty has flown strangely under the radar over recent seasons, surfacing in trade speculation but little else. Not surprising, considering how poorly the Phillies have performed as an organization. Now thrust onto a playoff roster, Hamels has continued along with his consistent ways.
Since coming over to the Rangers, Hamels has gone 7-1 with a 3.66 ERA while striking out 8.4 batters per nine innings. His playoff track record is worth fearing, too, with a 7-4 record and 3.09 ERA over 82.1 innings pitched. At age 24, he was named 2008 World Series MVP when the Phillies won out over the Tampa Bay Rays.
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Luck may be on Toronto’s side, though, as the Jays batters have produced a cumulative slash line of .316 / .368 / .506 against Hamels. With four home runs and six extra base hits in 79 at-bats, here’s hoping the boys in blue and white can find a chink in the armour.
Four starts, four wins and a 1.67 ERA. It couldn’t go much better than it already has, but some variables remain with Stroman. Sustaining such a level of success against one of the stronger offensive lineups in baseball will be no small task, and it starts with staying “normal” on the mound despite the extraordinary circumstances.
Early walks and hit batsmen doomed David Price on Thursday, and Stroman will need to focus on limiting these free runners. Texas has already shown a willingness to move runners on the pitch, so he’ll need to make them earn their bases.
Player to Watch: Troy Tulowitzki
Tulo is still hurting, but it doesn’t appear to be limiting his game too seriously. He made some hard contact in game one against Yovani Gallardo, and comes with a history of success against Hamels. In 15 at-bats, Tulowitzki has five base hits with two home runs, so he may be the offensive boost the Jays need in game two.