Texas Rangers: On Deck-Toronto Blue Jays
By Seth Jackson
The Texas Rangers head out to Toronto to continue their rivalry with the Blue Jays. It’s no secret that there’s bad blood between these teams as they’ve met the past two years in the ALDS.
There is little love lost between the Rangers and the Blue Jays. It all began in that seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS and has escalated from there. That game will go down as one of the most classic playoff performances of all time.
In case you somehow missed it here’s just a quick reminder. Rougned Odor scored on a controversial play that involved the catcher hitting Shin-Soo Choo’s bat on the throw back to the pitcher. Elvis Andrus took part in three errors in the bottom of the inning. Jose Bautista admired his home run than threw the mother of all bat flips. Blue Jays fans are the worst and flooded the field with beer bottles twice. The benches cleared once. And it took nearly an hour to get through that one inning. That about sums it up.
That inning set off a feud that has yet to settle down between the Rangers and Blue Jays. But it was Bautista’s bat flip of pure disdain that burned most in the hearts of the Rangers and their fans alike. Everyone knew that the anger would boil over at some point and that day came on the last regular season meeting between the two teams in 2016.
It came in the form of a 96 mph fastball from Matt Bush right into the ribs of Bautista in the eighth inning. Bautista trotted down to first and that should have been the end of it, justice had been served. But then Bautista couldn’t let it go. He had to slide hard right at Odor, disrupting the easy double play. Odor wasn’t having any of it however and he made Bautista regret ever having messed with him by landing a punch right on his jaw. Watch this battle unfold, brought to you by MLB.com.
That was the last time these two teams faced off in the regular season. They met again in the playoffs and there weren’t any fireworks, just a clean sweep for the Blue Jays. But the rivalry is still there and you know each of these teams wants nothing more than to destroy the other.
Staff-wise, these two teams are mostly the same as last year. The biggest difference is that Edwin Encarnacion is now with the Cleveland Indians instead of the Blue Jays. That’s a big bat and Toronto took a hit to start off the season, opening the year 6-17. They’ve recovered though and have gone 15-9 since then. They are currently on a three game winning streak.
The Rangers can relate to the Blue Jays in the area of slow starts. Thankfully, they recovered quicker than Toronto but after their long stretch of series wins, they finally dropped one to Boston on Thursday.
So that’s the setup for this series. Let’s see how it ought to pan it out.
Friday, May 26 (Griffin vs. Bolsinger)
A.J. Griffin has faced the Blue Jays five times over his career but has factored into the decision just twice. He’s had a lot of success against them, going 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA. That’s the fifth best ERA he has against any one team and the best against a team he’s faced more than three times.
Outside of his last outing, this is the best season Griffin has had since his rookie year at Oakland back in 2012. He has the best win percentage out of any Texas starter and has a knack for ending losing streaks. And when his curveball is on, there’s nothing hitters can do to get the bat on it.
Mike Bolsinger on the other hand, has struggled to find success this season. He’s not been in the league for very long but he’s never had a winning season, going .500 once. This year isn’t going very well either as he’s currently 0-2 with a 6.32 ERA.
In his career, he’s struggled against left-handed batters more as is typical for a righty, but this year he’s actually done far better facing lefties than righties. He’s shut left-handers down (.156/.270/.219) but righties are batting an insane .414/.538/.655 against him. That’s not good when the majority of batters hit from the right side of the box.
Most likely, two-thirds of the Rangers lineup on Friday will be hitting right-handed as Bannister knows these stats.
Prediction: Rangers win thanks to a barrage of hits. Griffin recovers from his last poor start to pitch a solid game.
Saturday, May 27 (Darvish vs. Estrada)
Yu Darvish currently has the lowest ERA of his career despite having the lowest K/9 of his career (still an impressive 9.61). He leads the Rangers staff in wins with five and has yet to allow more than four runs in an outing. Darvish used to be known as having the most feared arsenal in the game and while that’s still true, he’s relied on his fastball more this year in order to set up his slider more effectively.
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Yu has pitched against the Blue Jays a good amount over the years, seven times in his career though he missed last year’s series as he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s done fairly well against them, going 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his lifetime which would be great for most pitchers but is pretty average for him. He does strike them out pretty well though, averaging over 11.5 K/9.
Marco Estrada has been pretty good this year as well. His record of 3-2 isn’t as good as it ought to be because in his five appearances in the month of April, he had a 2.70 ERA but a record of 0-1 since his team couldn’t find a way to put runs on the board.
He hasn’t actually faced the Rangers very much in his nine-year career, just three times in fact. He’s pitched fairly well against them, allowing just 15 hits in 24 innings en route to a 2.63 ERA. However, he’s just 1-1 in those games as the Rangers have been able to keep the Blue Jays off the board as well.
Prediction: It will be a pitcher’s duel with both going deep into the ball game but the Rangers come out on top. The ability of the bullpen to hold will be key in this matchup.
Sunday, May 28 (Cashner vs. Biagini)
Andrew Cashner will take the mound in the series finale in Toronto. He’s had a rough year so far, going 1-4 though his 3.18 ERA is solid. If he can get some run support, he should be alright. He’s not gonna get a lot of strikeouts (just 21 on the year so far) but he pitches to soft contact to produce outs.
Though he’s been in the league since 2010, Cashner has only faced Toronto once in his career. It wasn’t a great outing but there were some good aspects to it. He gave up three runs on a pair of homers but allowed just four hits and fanned six batters through 6.0 innings.
This is Joe Biagini’s first year as a starter. It hasn’t been the smoothest transition from the bullpen to the rotation. He hasn’t made it more than five innings in any of his four outings so far and is 1-2 with a 4.15 ERA in games started.
Despite his little time in the league, Biagini has actually had four appearances against the Rangers, all in relief. In those appearances, he recorded one win and the Rangers have been held scoreless with 5 hits in 6.1 innings pitched.
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Prediction: Neither pitcher lasts very long in the game and the lead changes multiple times. Both bullpens have struggled this season and their ERA is separated by just 0.02 with the Rangers slightly worse. They’ve both blown at least half their saves. However, the Rangers bullpen is fresher as Darvish lasted longer than Estrada the night before and they come out on top because of it.
Rangers: Boston (0-3); Angels (3-3); Cleveland (0-3); Seattle (1-5)
Blue Jays: Boston (1-2); Angels (2-2); Cleveland (2-1); Seattle (4-0)