ALDS: Showdown in Arlington
By: James Kelly Jr. – @KellyJLive
Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers – 4:30 pm TBS
Season series – Blue Jays 4-3
Oh yes ladies and gentlemen, here we go again. There are so many storylines with this series. The bad blood dates back to the 2015 American League Division Series, and the infamous ” bat flip ” , by José Bautista. I’d like to think that the dust has settled, after Rougned Odor gave Joey Bats a knuckle sandwich early in the regular season. However, this is the playoffs and emotions will no doubt, be riding high. Texas has endured a lot this season, including the forced retirement of their perennial, all-star slugger, Prince Fielder. Nevertheless, they have persevered, and now find themselves at the top of the American League, with home field throughout the postseason.
For the Rangers, you go with who got you there. Cole Hamels had a phenomenal 2016 campaign, sailing to a 15-5 record. The southpaw is a location pitcher capable of changing speeds, and possesses a mind altering bender that locks hitters up at the knees. Hamels will be on the hill in Arlington this afternoon, as the Rangers look to jump out to an early series lead.
For the Jays, it will be young right-handed, Marco Estrada. With a fastball, change-up, and a cutter to his advantage, Estrada has been able to hold hitters to just a .180 average this season. All this despite a 9-9 record. Estrada has given up just 2 earned in his last 19 innings.
Hitters on both sides sure have their work cut out for them. Power is in no short supply in that Ranger lineup. Late season catching acquisition, Jonathan LuCroy has been spectacular, and veterans such as Carlos Beltran and Adrian Beltré have a great deal of playoff experience. Not to mention, the other power in that Texas order, in Mitch Moreland and Shin Soo Choo.
Bautista and Edwin Encarnation have already warmed to the task, leading the Jays past the Orioles in the wild card game, on Tuesday. Look for the Jays to get Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar on base, and heavily involved in the run game. AL MVP incumbent, Josh Donaldson won’t be any slouch on the base paths either. John Gibbons was not aggressive enough in the wild card game, and will need to be more proactive if Toronto is going to scratch out runs versus Hamels.
I think the initial one-two pitching punch of Hamels and Yu Darvish, coupled with an explosive power lineup, the Rangers take these first two in Arlington. Toronto and its fans, will be ready in games three and four. This series goes five, with the Rangers coming out on top.