The much-ballyhooed Toronto Blue Jays, like the Texas Rangers, improved their team greatly thanks to some MLB Trade Deadline deals. In fact, without the acquisition of ace lefty David Price (not to mention the pickups of Troy Tulowitzki), you can make the argument that the Blue Jays wouldn’t have even made the postseason.
Of course, the same argument can be made of the Rangers and their prospect-laden pact with the Phillies to bring in their very own southpaw stud, Cole Hamels. Yet here they both are, in the 2015 American League Division Series, a mere three wins shy of playing for a pennant.
Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, or are just spending way too much time keeping up with the Dallas Cowboys’ most recent spat of injuries, then you are well aware of the fact that Toronto is picked by many to be this year’s World Series Champions.
However, the Texas Rangers—your Texas Rangers—stand more than a fighter’s chance at staving off the league’s most prolific run-scoring team, and making their way to the ALCS.
Here are five ways the Rangers can cause dismay for those that say “nay.”
Game One: Win It
Sure, this usually goes without saying. However, the importance of winning that initial matchup—especially on the road—is essential in a five-game series.
The Toronto Blue Jays, in spite of their overall excellence, play slightly below .500 baseball (40-41) when on the road. A Rangers win in Game One means they’d neutralize the Jays’ home field advantage, and have a chance to eliminate the Jays with a win (or two) in Arlington.
In a perfect world, you don’t want to ever face Toronto’s Big Three: Josh Donaldson (.297/.371/.568, 41 HRs, 123 RBI), Jose Bautista (.250/.377/.536, 40 HRs, 110 RBI) or Edwin Encarnacion (.277/.372/.557, 39 HRs, 111 RBI), but you definitely do not want to face them in their own yard (with the exception of Encarnacion, who actually hits a bit better on the road), at Rogers Centre.
To sneak away with a win in Toronto, well, that could shift the momentum and set the tone for a huge, Texas-sized upset.
3B Josh Donaldson
Home: .330/.398/.647, 24 HRs, 69 RBI
Away: .263/.343/.487, 17 HRs, 54 RBI
RF Jose Bautista
Home: .264/.404/.585, 23 HRs, 67 RBI
Away: .239/.351/.491, 17 HRs, 47 RBI
1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion
Home: .273/.369/.562, 18 HRs, 58 RBI
Away: .280/.375/.552, 21 HRs, 53 RBI
Get after David Price
David Price, simply put, is a true ace. When asked the hypothetical question of whom you’d rather have: Cole Hamels or David Price? The simplest answer is: both. A more realistic answer is who cares? Most teams would kill for either one.
That being said, David Price has had limited success against the Texas Rangers in his career—both in the regular season and in the postseason.
Overall, Price has gone 3-4, with a 5.15 ERA against the Rangers; with only one of those wins coming in the postseason—during the WC play-in game of 2013.
“Yo” is the Game One starter for the Rangers, which caused some head scratching initially, but if you check out his success against the Jays in 2015, you’ll understand it’s the right call.
Over his 13+ innings of work against Toronto, Gallardo has yet to give up a run; and he is the only Rangers pitcher to notch a win against the Canadians. In fact, the two wins Texas earned against Toronto this season both went the way of Yo.
Gallardo matches up well against the Blue Jays, and if he can pull of a win in Game One, you get the feeling that the Rangers kind of stole one from the opposition, using their fourth or fifth-best starter. Gallardo’s potential impact cannot be overstated.
Get into the Blue Jays bullpen
Every team has a weakness; and the very young Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen is their Achilles’ Heel. For starters, the Jays’ closer, Roberto Osuna, is a 20-year-old rookie, not far removed from Tommy John surgery.
Consider too that Osuna has been trending down of late. Over his last 12 innings of work, he’s given up 11 hits, eight earned runs and four home runs; not to mention his sky-high 6.54 ERA over that span.
Another key component of their bullpen, is RH Aaron Sanchez, who is devastating against right-handed batters (.163/.242/.194, 39 Ks) but is terrible against left-handed batters (of whom the Rangers have a seemingly endless supply)—.282/.390/.488, 22 Ks, 29 BBs, 9 HRs.
If the Rangers can get into that Jays’ bullpen early and often—they can win this thing.
The Rangers Big Three need to stay hot
It is no coincidence that the Texas Rangers second half surge directly coincided with the return to form of Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre and the continued excellence of Prince Fielder.
For the Rangers to send this week’s Sports Illustrated‘s cover boys home early, the offensive core needs to produce. Choo, the MLB’s AL Player of the Month, and Beltre, MLB’s AL Player of the Week, don’t need to stay at their current nuclear levels, but they do need to produce for the Rangers to sneak past the Jays.
RF Shin-Soo Choo
Overall: .276/.375/.463, 22 HR, 82 RBI
Second Half: .343/.455/.560, 11 HRs, 44 RBI
3B Adrian Beltre
Overall: .287/.334/.453, 18 HRs, 83 RBI
Second Half: .318/.376/.509, 11 HRs, 61 RBI
1B/DH Prince Fielder
Overall: .305/.378/.463, 23 HRs, 98 RBI
Last 14 Days: .283/.356/.434, 2 HRs, 14 RBI
2015 ALDS: Starting Pitchers
Game One: RHP Yovani Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA, 121 Ks) VS LHP David Price (18-5, 2.45 ERA, 225 Ks)
Game Two: LHP Cole Hamels (13-8, 3.65 ERA, 215 Ks) VS RHP Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67 ERA, 18 Ks)
Game Three: TBD VS RHP Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.13 ERA, 131 Ks)
Game Four*: TBD VS RHP R.A. Dickey (11-11, 3.91 ERA, 126 Ks)
Game Five*: TBD VS TBD