The Blue Jays and Rangers begin the ALDS at 4:30 EST on Thursday, with the Blue Jays sending Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48) to the hill against the Rangers’ Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32)
After the Blue Jays 11th-inning walk-off win against the Orioles in the AL Wild Card game, the club has now made their way to Texas for the first two games of the ALDS. In case you forgot, these two teams met in the ALDS last season as well, and it was the most exciting series for the Blue Jays in more than 20 years.
Of course the two teams met already a few times in 2016, with the infamous Rougned Odor punch to Jose Bautista‘s jaw being the lasting image from that exchange. They last met on May 15th, so it’s been nearly five calendar months since the two teams met.
The Rangers have the home field advantage in the series, and a significantly different club than they did the last time the Blue Jays saw them. They’ve added hitters like Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Beltran, a resurgent Carlos Gomez, and have a healthy lineup entering the playoffs.
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They’ve also added Jeremy Jeffress, Matt Bush (he was brought up right before Toronto last saw them), and have a healthy Yu Darvish.. This is a different club than the Rangers sent to the field in May, and it should be significantly improved too.
The Blue Jays will send Marco Estrada to the hill, who was excellent in last year’s playoffs, and the Jays will hope for a similar performance. Estrada has held the Rangers’ hitters to a career line of .214/.294/.393, and has been pitching well lately. In particular, Ian Desmond is just 1-18, Adrian Beltre is 1-9, and Odor is just 1-6. They are small sample sizes, but Estrada looks like a solid choice, for many reasons, to begin the series against the powerful Rangers lineup.
Cole Hamels sports a .267/.319/.453 line in his career against the Blue Jays’ hitters, and has struggled against a couple in particular. Melvin Upton isn’t one of them and likely won’t be getting a start today as he is just 1-18 career against the lefty. Edwin Encarnacion has fared well though, hitting 5-14 career against Hamels, while Troy Tulowitzki is 5-15, and Bautista is 3-9.
Of course, Hamels has been through this many times before, both with the Rangers and previously with the Philadelphia Phillies during their dominant run in the NL. Hamels is 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 15 career playoff starts, and he’ll be looking to do exactly what the Rangers brought him to Texas for, leading their club to big playoff victories.
The Blue Jays did win the season series 4 games to 3, but as mentioned above, the season series concluded on May 15th, and both clubs have been through a great deal since.
Many Blue Jays fans (myself included) had hoped for a re-match against the Rangers in the playoffs, and another chance to add to one of baseball’s hottest new rivalries.
Thanks to a thrilling win against the Orioles on Tuesday night, Edwing and the Blue Jays have given us exactly that.