ALDS Game 1 Preview: Rangers at Blue Jays
The Blue Jays won their division rather handily, leaving the only drama at the end of the season to be whether Toronto would finish the year with the best record in the American League, thereby granting them home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This did not happen, as Toronto four of its last six games, including the last two in a row to Tampa Bay, and finished two games shy of the Kansas City Royals with a record of 93-69. Regardless, the Blue Jays clinched the East Division Championship on the last day of September, allowing them to enter the first game of the ALDS not having used all of their key pieces and regulars as often as their opponents.
The Rangers had a much more difficult road to the West Division Championship, not having the title officially bestowed upon them until Game 162 of the regular season. That took a complete game effort from staff ace Cole Hamels and an all-hands on deck showing from the lineup after suffering through a bullpen-draining, emotional gut-punch of a loss the day before. With all of that in mind, the Rangers seized and held on to the West Division lead through nineteen games to finish with an 88-74 record.
- For the season: 13-11, 3.42 ERA, 68 BB, 121 K, 4.00 FIP, 1.416 WHIP
- Post-season career: 2008 NLDS, 2011 NLDS, NLCS – 1-2, 2.08 ERA, 26.0 IP
- Against the 2015 Blue Jays: 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 13.2 IP
- Key Match-ups vs. Gallardo:
The Keys: Most of what made Yovani Gallardo good when he was good this season was his ability to work the edges of the strike zone and still induce contact. This season, Gallardo has given up the lowest number of home runs, 18, since his All-Star campaign in 2010, 12. Back then, of course, the then-Milwaukee Brewer was more of a strikeout pitcher, racking up 200 Ks as opposed to his current 121. Since then, the game has been about ground balls, putting up career-best 1.44 ground ball to fly ball ratio. In his start in the last series against Houston, Gallardo went through three innings of typically high pitch count per inning ball and was staked to a 6-0 lead. He went to be more aggressive within the strike zone and got immediately burned by a triple and a homer. With his stuff and with Toronto hitting a league-high 232 home runs (including 41 by Josh Donaldson, 40 by Jose Bautista, and 39 by Edwin Encarnacion), Gallardo has to stick to the game plan of nibbling at the corners, as frustrating as it can be for Rangers’ fans to watch. With Cole Hamels going in Game 2, the gamble would be that Gallardo can get into the sixth inning with his typical 90-pitches (the action isn’t as sharp on his pitches after that point), and then the bullpen can be worked however it needs to be worked. Keep the Blue Jays off balance and impatient and stay away from the middle of the zone.
- For the season (Detroit Tigers/Toronto Blue Jays): 18-5, 2.45 ERA, 47 BB, 225 K, 2.78 FIP, 1.076 WHIP
- Post-season career: 2008 ALCS, World Series, 2010 ALDS, 2011 ALDS, 2013 ALDS, 2014 ALDS – 1-5, 4.50 ERA, 40.0 IP
- Against the 2015 Rangers: 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6.0 IP
- Key Match-ups:
The Keys: David Price is a Cy Young winning, 5-time All-Star for a reason. For some reason or another, though, the Texas Rangers have had his number in the Post-season. Price is 0-3 against Texas in three Division Series starts (as a Tampa Bay Ray), and several of the Rangers he faced then – Andrus, Beltre, Josh Hamilton, and Napoli – are Rangers today. To that end, the other key Rangers, DeLino DeShields, the catchers and Rougned Odor, have limited to no experience against Price. The Blue Jays ace did not make his last start of the season, as the Jays had clinched the Eastern Division Title by that point. He’s been throwing simulated games and side sessions, however, and the only thing he has going against him is the bad voodoo of prior playoff games against the Rangers. He’s a strikeout pitcher and is going against a Texas team that was 7th in the AL in strikeouts at 1233. With Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson on the left side of the infield, Price can pitch to the K against lefties and the ground ball against the righties in the Texas lineup and nix the bad luck that’s followed him past game 162.
For Texas: The bullpen should be fully rested by this point, and with Yovani Gallardo not having gone more than six innings since June 27th (against Toronto), that will be key if the Rangers are either protecting the lead or trying to keep the offense in the game. Since its reformation at the trade deadline, the Texas bullpen has posted a collective WAR of 1.4, good for 10th best in the Majors. If the offense can scratch a run or two off of Price and Gallardo can keep the potent Blue Jays lineup in check, Jeff Banister can hand the ball off to Jake Diekman, Sam Dyson, and Shawn Tolleson, with the fifth starter sitting in reserve, should Gallardo need help getting out of the sixth.
For Toronto: With Price going in Game 1, the Blue Jays bullpen may not even come into factor here. The health of Troy Tulowitzki just may impact the game, though. Tulo had not played in a game since September 12th, when he suffered a cracked shoulder blade. He returned to the field in the lone game the Blue Jays won against Tampa Bay during the last series of the season and played like he hadn’t missed any time. Toronto was 31-10 when Tulo made an appearance in the regular season, so it’s no secret that his presence has been huge. Should the 20-year-old Rookie of the Year candidate Roberto Osuna come into the game might impact things, as well. Osuna did not have a great time down the stretch in September, giving up 8 earned runs in 13 appearances and blowing two saves in the last month. That still shouldn’t take away from the fact that he put up a 2.58 ERA while converting 20 saves.
American League Division Series Game 1: Texas Rangers @ Toronto Blue Jays
October 8, 2015. 3:30 PM EST/2:30 PM CST
Yovani Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA) vs. David Price (18-5, 2.45 ERA)
TV: Fox Sports 1 in Texas, SNET in Canada
Radio: 105.3 FM The Fan in Texas, SN590 in Toronto, ESPN Radio nationally