Blue Jays ALCS Game 1: Preview and pitching matchup


It’s time for the ALCS. The Toronto Blue Jays kick things off tonight at Kauffman Stadium against the Kansas City Royals, and it’s the dream playoff matchup. We’re looking at two fundamentally different ball clubs that have a true hatred for one another, so buckle up for a long series with more big swings than a Juan Francisco at-bat.

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The Blue Jays took the season series over Kansas City 4-3, outscoring the Royals 39-33. Home field advantage could rear it’s ugly head over the next week plus, as the Jays’ late season nap allowed Kansas City to secure top spot in the American League. If this series goes the full seven, it will end back at Kauffman.

To some extent, this is small ball versus the long ball. Stars like Lorenzo Cain (28 stolen bases) have led the charge on an offense that is fully capable of producing runs, so the Jays will rely heavily on Russell Martin to control the bases. The 2014 postseason also showed the dominant abilities of a KC bullpen, so Toronto will need to strike whenever possible.

Edinson Volquez  (13-9, 3.55 ERA)

Volquez gets the nod in game one and has enjoyed his second consecutive strong season after a stretch in the wilderness. Control was a major issue for the 32-year old right-hander earlier in his career, but he’s brought that to a slightly more reasonable level at 3.2 BB/9 in 2015.

His splits are nearly identical, so there’s not much to see there, but his performance since the first of September took a real downturn. In six starts and a relief appearance, Volquez posted a 4.89 ERA with an .811 opponent’s OPS. He’s had very little success in the postseason, and in his ALDS start against the Houston Astros, he lasted 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits. We’ll have a more in-depth breakdown of Volquez coming later this afternoon.

Marco Estrada  (13-8, 3.13 ERA)

The quiet saviour of this rotation, Estrada has come a long way to be the game one starter in the ALCS. The right-hander looked excellent in his ALDS start, throwing 6.1 innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits and walking none. The Texas Rangers looked absolutely baffled by his changeup, and perhaps that pitch becomes slightly more effective with opposing hitters gripping the bat tighter in the playoff spotlight. Expect to see Estrada working with Dioner Navarro once again.

Blue Jay to Watch: Edwin Encarnacion

The Jays slugger is 3-for-9 career against Volquez with a home run. The most encouraging number, though, may be Encarnacion’s three walks with just one strikeout. He’s already seeing the ball as well as he has all season, so if there’s one Blue Jay that’s going to crack this game open, suspect Edwin.

Next: Get your popcorn ready, this ALCS will have drama

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