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Thursday’s Playoff Action
TEXAS RANGERS (88-74) at TORONTO BLUE JAYS (93-69)
First pitch: Thursday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Texas +197, Toronto -235, Total: 8.0
The Rangers will be looking to steal Game 1 on the road when they head to Toronto and take on the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Texas avoided the AL wildcard game by winning four of its final six regular season games to win the division. This team was a long shot to make the playoffs at the midseason mark, but it found a way and will now be looking to take down Toronto.
This Blue Jays team, meanwhile, was one of the most dominant clubs in baseball after the trade deadline. The team does, however, come into this series after having lost four of its past five games and will be hoping that those struggles do not carry over into this series.
The starters in this game are going to be RHP Yovani Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA, 121 K) for the Rangers and LHP David Price (18-5, 2.53 ERA, 225 K) for the Blue Jays. Toronto has dominated this head-to-head series over the years, going 4-2 against Texas this season and 14-5 over the past three seasons. Also worth noting is the fact that 14 of those 19 games over the past three years have gone Under the total.
The Rangers are an impressive 23-11 against the money line against AL East opponents this season. They are, however, up against a Blue Jays team that is 10-0 against the money line in home games after two or more consecutive losses this season with Price on the mound. Both teams also happen to be entering this series at close to full health.
Yovani Gallardo is going to be the Rangers’ starter on Thursday and he has had a bit of trouble recently. Although Gallardo has allowed two earned runs in each of his past two starts, he has allowed 17 hits over those two games and has allowed at least eight hits in five of his past nine appearances. He’ll need to do a better job of keeping the ball out of play on Thursday.
Gallardo has, however, been extremely effective against Toronto recently. He has shut the team out in his most recent two starts against the Blue Jays, totaling 13.2 innings in those games and allowing just six hits in total. If he can find a way to pitch anywhere near that well on Thursday then his team will be ecstatic.
Another thing this Rangers team has going for it is that some of its hitters have done very well against Price in the past. 3B Adrian Beltre (.287, 18 HR, 83 RBI) is the guy who has dominated Price in his career. He is 10-for-33 with two homers, four doubles and six RBI against the ace. He’ll need to produce at the plate on Thursday as well.
Another guy who has given Price trouble is SS Elvis Andrus (.258, 7 HR, 62 RBI). Andrus is 10-for-25 with seven walks and five RBI against Price and will need to get on base often in this game. It’d be a huge plus for this team if DH Prince Fielder (.305, 23 HR, 98 RBI) can figure Price out. He is just 2-for-11 with one RBI against the ace in his career, but he is the Rangers’ best hitter and the team will need him to come through in this series.
David Price has been nothing short of spectacular since being acquired by the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. Toronto has won in nine of his 11 starts and he has allowed more than three earned runs in just one of those games. That game was, however, his most recent one. Price allowed four earned runs on six hits in just five innings of work against the Rays on Sep. 26. He’ll need to shake that one off and pitch the way he has all season in order to get his team a 1-0 lead in this series. In his only start against Texas this season, Price pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out eight batters. He may need to be even better on Thursday.
If the Blue Jays are going to advance, the superstars in this lineup will need to get it going offensively. DH Edwin Encarnacion (.277, 39 HR, 111 RBI) may be able to set the tone for this team on Thursday. He is 5-for-16 against Gallardo in his career, but three of those five hits have left the park. He would give his team a huge momentum boost if he can provide that type of power in Game 1. It will also likely allow Price to pitch with a lead and that is not something that the Rangers want.
OF Jose Bautista (.250, 40 HR, 114 RBI) and 3B Josh Donaldson (.297, 41 HR, 123 RBI) will also need to get their bats going on Thursday, though. They are a combined 4-for-21 with no homers and two RBI against Gallardo and that likely will need to change if this team does not want to go down 1-0 in the series.