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Rangers/Blue Jays

Have you ever heard a Game Two described as pivotal? If not, welcome to your first postseason.

Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels) at Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman) 12:30 p.m. Eastern

PECOTA odds of winning: 31% Rangers, 69% Blue Jays

Projected Starting Lineups

Rangers vs. Stroman (R)

Blue Jays vs. Hamels (L)

Delino DeShields Jr. (R) CF

Ben Revere (L) LF

Shin-Soo Choo (L) RF

Josh Donaldson (R) 3B

Prince Fielder (L) DH

Jose Bautista (R) RF

Adrian Beltre? (R) 3B

Edwin Encarnacion (R) DH

Mitch Moreland (L) 1B

Chris Colabello (R) 1B

Josh Hamilton (L) LF

Russell Martin (R) C

Elvis Andrus (R) SS

Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS

Rougned Odor (L) 2B

Kevin Pillar (R) CF

Chris Gimenez (R) C

Cliff Pennington (S) 2B

Injuries/Availability: On Texas' side, Adrian Beltre left Game One with lower back tightness—this after taking a cortisone shot. His status for Game Two is unclear. If Beltre is out, the Rangers could remove him from the postseason roster in order to add Joey Gallo or Ed Lucas. That move would cost Beltre his Championship Series eligibility, however, so they could stick with Hanser Alberto and hope that Beltre can return in time for Game Three. It's also worth noting that closer Shawn Tolleson, who was used heavily down the stretch, didn't pitch in a save situation.

The Blue Jays have a pair of situations to keep an eye on as well. Josh Donaldson exited the game after being kneed in the head on a slide. He passed the concussion protocol, according to the broadcast, and is expected to start Game Two. Ditto for Jose Bautista, who exited late due to hamstring tightness. If either misses Friday's game, then Cliff Pennington and/or Dalton Pompey would start in their place.

Outlook: The Rangers won Game One behind their power-speed combination and some stout relief pitching. Now with Hamels, their best starter, on the mound, they have a legitimate chance to head home with a 2-0 lead. Texas' lefty-heavy lineup should theoretically enjoy facing Stroman more than they did David Price, though the Rangers seemed indifferent to platoon splits in Game One.

For the Blue Jays, Game Two is… wait for it, crucial. Falling behind 2-0 in any series is never ideal, particularly one of the best-of-five variety. Stroman's performance is of great importance, but the Jays need the regular season's best offense to produce more than it did in Game One, when their nos. 2-6 hitters went 3-for-15 with a walk. That's not going to get it done.

You can catch Game Two at 12:30 ET on MLB Network. —R.J. Anderson


The Royals were thoroughly out-BABIP’d by the Astros in Game One, putting a whopping 27 non-homers in play but gathering just four hits on those. Whether that’s bad luck or an opponent who

knew exactly where to move its seven defenders for each batter is irrelevant—the Royals have burned a third of their allotted lives, and in a game in which they figured (before the clouds opened up) to have a starting pitching mismatch.

Houston Astros (Scott Kazmir) at Kansas City Royals (Johnny Cueto), 3:45 p.m. Eastern

PECOTA odds of winning: 59% Royals, 41% Astros

Projected Starting Lineups

Astros vs. Cueto (R)

Royals vs. Kazmir (L)

Jose Altuve (R) 2B

Alcides Escobar (R) SS

George Springer (R) RF

Ben Zobrist (S) 2B

Carlos Correa (R) SS

Lorenzo Cain (R) CF

Colby Rasmus (L) CF

Eric Hosmer (L) 1B

Evan Gattis (R) DH

Kendrys Morales (S) DH

Luis Valbuena (L) 3B

Mike Moustakas (L) 3B

Chris Carter (R) 1B

Salvador Perez (R) C

Jason Castro (L) C

Alex Gordon (L) LF

Jake Marisnick (R) CF

Alex Rios (R) RF

Injuries/Availability: Carlos Gomez, who started against the Yankees in the Wild Card game, did not start against Ventura in Game One. He did pinch-run for Evan Gattis in the eighth, and stayed in the game as DH (but didn’t bat). With another right-hander on the mound tomorrow, the primary change to the Astros lineup would be dependent on how Gomez feels.

Even with a lefty on the mound, there will be no changes in the Royals lineup. “My lineup’s my lineup,” Ned Yost told reporters after the game. Because of a rain delay in the second, the Royals used Chris Young in long relief. He’s obviously unavailable after throwing 70 pitches. The Royals now undoubtedly plan to use Yordano Ventura (who threw just 42 pitches) in Game Four, so Kris Medlen will be available as a long man in the bullpen today.

Outlook: This is the pitching matchup both teams might have expected when they made their big deadline deals this summer—they just would have expected it in Game One. (Admittedly, this presupposes the hypothetical future-knowing Astros planned to be Wild Cards and planned to burn their ace, Dallas Keuchel, in that game… but give me the premise.) As is, both pitchers have been disappointing, and PECOTA’s general excitement about these two pitchers is a side effect of having a long memory and a slow in-season reaction time. As the Royals know from last year, these series are short and momentum (real or imagined) picks up steam quickly; at this stage in 2014, the upstart K.C. Kids were a game up in Los Angeles and didn’t end up losing a game until 19 games later. Yost will just have to remind his teams that momentum, like imaginary friends and pressure, is only real if you believe in it. And A.J. Hinch will have to make sure his team believes in it. —Sam Miller

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