The Blue Jays slugged their way to an American League East title and now have the good fortune to draw perhaps the worst playoff starting rotation in Texas in the ALDS.
In series where the starting pitching does not look all that great, having the best offense in the Major Leagues in perhaps several years should help the American League East Champion Toronto Blue Jays as they take on the American League West Champion Texas Rangers in the best three-of-five ALDS, with Game 1 from Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON Canada set for Thursday at 4:05 ET on FOX Sports 1.
The posted series price at 5 Dimes has Toronto as a big favorite for this ALDS at current odds of -235.
How They Got Here
The Blue Jays took advantage of having an inordinately high amount of head-to-head meetings with the New York Yankees over the last six weeks of the season by dominating New York in that series, thus winning the division by six games and returning to the playoffs for the first time since way back when they won the 1993 World Series on the famous Joe Carter home run 22 years ago!
The Rangers meanwhile were one of the hottest teams in baseball after the All-Star break, ultimately clinching a playoff spot by being the winning MLB picks over the Los Angeles Angels last Friday but not clinching the West Division title until beating the Angels again in the final game of the season on Sunday. Still, the Rangers may live to rue blowing a 10-6 lead in the ninth inning vs. the Halos Saturday, as that necessitated starting ace Cole Hamels in the finale.
Offense, Bullpen Keys for Toronto
The Blue Jays made one of the biggest moves at the trading deadline by acquiring ace David Price from the Rays, and he did not disappoint going 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 74.1 innings vs. just 18 walks in a Toronto uniform.
But make no mistake the Blue Jays were mostly carried by their offense, which led the Major Leagues in runs scored with 5.50 per game, home runs with 232 and team OPS at .707, all while ranking second in batting at .269. A lot of credit must also go to a bullpen that finished fifth in the American League in ERA, although it will be interesting to see how 20-year-old rookie closer Roberto Osuna now handles the pressure of the playoffs.
However, we are not as high on the Blue Jays chances of advancing to the World Series as some other experts because besides the question mark with Osuna as the closer, we are not terribly enamored with the starting pitching after Price, and that can mean death in a short series.
Marcus Stroman came back late in the year and was excellent going 4-0 on four starts with a 1.67 ERA, but R.A. Dickey was on the wrong side of mediocre at 11-11 with a 3.91 ERA and Marco Estrada had very weak peripherals (4.40 FIP, 4.93 xFIP) that do not support his 13-8 record and 3.13 ERA. Luckily the Blue Jays can get by with their offense in this series vs. probably a worse pitching staff, but the end of the line for Toronto may then follow in the ALCS.
Texas Also Acquired Ace Starter
Like the Blue Jays, Texas also acquired an ace at the treading deadline in Hamels, but having to start him Sunday vs. the Angels means he will start in Game 2 of this series on four days rest instead of Game 1. Hence, the Rangers are at a big disadvantage in Game 1 having to start Yovani Gallardo, who has lasted six innings just once since the beginning of August, vs. Price. That becomes an even bigger issue with Texas 11th in the AL with a 4.12 bullpen ERA.
After Hamels, the trio of Gallardo, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland does not scare anyone, and particularly not the lethal Toronto offense. That troika was a key reason why Texas finished 23rd in the Major Leagues with a team ERA of 4.25, and while the Rangers deserve credit for their hot second half, they still ended up with just 88 wins to win a weak division, the only division winner in baseball this year with less than 90 wins.
As mentioned, the lack of starting pitching depth will probably cost the Blue Jays before the World Series as their fantastic offense does not figure to keep up its pace vs. better pitching. Luckily for Toronto though, this is not the series where that issue figures to surface as the Rangers may have the worst pitching staff among all the playoff teams, so Texas is one team that the Blue Jays can simply out-slug on their way to victory.
Furthermore the Texas ace Hamels is left-handed, so as great as he is it is still no guarantee that he will pitch as well as usual in Game 2 vs. a team that simply murders southpaws. We could still see the Rangers winning one game here though vs. a Toronto pitcher not named Price, but no more than that as Toronto advances to the ALCS.
Blue Jays in 4
MLB Pick: Blue Jays -235 (series)