The Texas Rangers return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012, and will see the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS. The Rangers won the AL west at 88-74, needing a win in the last game of the regular season to seal up the division. The Jays on the other hand won their division with some time left in the regular season, meaning they didn’t have to play all out to close the season, despite the fact they were still in a battle with the Kansas City Royals for home field advantage, which they did not get.
The Jays scored the most runs in the majors by a mile at 891. Second were the Yankees at 764. Josh Donaldson was fifth in baseball with 41 homers and second in RBIs with 123. Closely behind him on the RBIs list are Jose Bautista at 114 and Edwin Encarnacion at 111. They are near the top or there in almost every offensive category.
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But they do more than just hit. They have had one of the best rotations over the second half of the season, led by David Price. The Cy Young candidate led the AL in ERA at 2.45 and was third in wins with 18. However, he has not carried that form over into the playoffs. He has a 1-5 record in the playoffs over the course of his career, with his only win coming as a reliever in 2008 with Tampa Bay. His overall playoff ERA is 4.50 with a WHIP of 1.23. Price has the best ERA since the All-Star Break, followed by Marco Estrada at 2.78 and R.A. Dickey is tied with Justin Verlander for third at 2.80.
Head to head the Jays took four of six games. There was an early three game series in Toronto that happened before either team really hit their stride, and then a three game set in Texas in which the Jays took two of three. In the first game of that series, the Rangers took a lead into the top of the ninth but the Jays got to Shawn Tolleson for one of the few blown saves he had on the year. The Jays went off in the second game, but Yovani Gallardo limited the Jays to just one run in the third game as the Rangers won.
The Rangers can win this series. But to do so, they need to focus on three things: first, their speed needs to be a difference. Elvis Andrus and Delino DeShields both stole 25 bases this season, and as a team the Rangers were sixth in the majors with 101 swipes. Getting aggressive on the base paths can give the Rangers an edge. Second, the bullpen has to continue to play well. They were arguably the best pen in the majors since roughly July, and they need to keep it up. Sam Dyson, Shawn Tolleson, Jake Diekman and Keone Kela are going to be crucial to winning this series. Third, limit the long balls. The Jays were third in the majors in percentage of their hits being homers at 15.7%. The only teams higher were Houston and Baltimore. The Rangers were 12th at 12.1%. It’s unreasonable to expect Texas to not allow any homeruns, but if they contain the power of this lineup and win on the base paths and get great bullpen production, the Rangers can move on.
Here is the schedule for the ALDS:
Game 1- Thursday, October 8 at 2:37 PM CT in Toronto—Yovani Gallardo (13-11) vs. David Price (18-5)
Game 3- Sunday, October 11 at 7:10 PM CT in Arlington—TBA vs. Marco Estrada (13-8)
-I’m guessing Derek Holland will start this game
Game 4- Monday, October 12 at TBA in Arlington (if necessary)—TBA vs. R.A. Dickey (11-11)
-I’m guessing Colby Lewis would start this game if it is played
Game 5- Wednesday, October 14 at TBA in Toronto (if necessary)—TBA vs. Price
-I’m guessing Hamels would start this game if it is played
Should the Rangers move on, they will face the winner of the Houston vs. Kansas City series in the ALCS. Houston won the season series between those two 4-2, with a three game sweep in Houston in the first half of the season. The Rangers won the season series against both teams, 13-6 against Houston and 4-3 against Kansas City. Both teams sputtered a bit at the end of the season, with the Royals going 15-17 since September 1st and the Astros 14-17 in that span (including the wild card game win). But the Royals took care of business over the last week of the season as they won their last five games to seal up home field advantage.
Should the Rangers win again and move onto the World Series, they will have home field advantage against whomever comes out of the National League. The only playoff team from the NL that the Rangers played against in the regular season was the Dodgers, whom they took three of four from in June. They played two in Arlington, both Ranger wins, and split two games in LA.
During one of the Rangers games on ESPN Jon Sciambi said the Rangers could win it all (not that they would, but that they could). I agree, the pieces are in place to compete with anyone. I am not bothered by the fact the Rangers only won 88 games in the regular season, the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 with just 83 regular season wins. It doesn’t matter how you get there, just what happens when you do.