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Blue Jays/Rangers

The Blue Jays face elimination from the postseason as the series heads to Texas.

Toronto Blue Jays (Marco Estrada) at Texas Rangers (Martin Perez) 8:00 p.m. Eastern

PECOTA odds of winning: 58% Blue Jays, 42% Rangers

Projected Starting Lineups

Blue Jays vs. Estrada (R)

Rangers vs. Perez (L)

Ben Revere (L) LF

Delino DeShields Jr. (R) CF

Josh Donaldson (R) 3B

Shin-Soo Choo (L) RF

Jose Bautista (R) RF

Prince Fielder (L) DH

Edwin Encarnacion (R) DH

Mitch Moreland (L) 1B

Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS

Elvis Andrus (R) SS

Chris Colabello (R) 1B

Josh Hamilton (L) LF

Russell Martin (R) C

Rougned Odor (L) 2B

Kevin Pillar (R) CF

Robinson Chirinos (R) C

Ryan Goins (L) 2B

Hanser Alberto (R) 3B

Injuries/Availability: Beltre’s status remains uncertain. He did not participate in team workouts yesterday, resting in hopes of being able to play in Game Three. If he doesn’t start, there’s still a chance he’d be available off the bench in a big spot.

As for the Blue Jays, Brett Cecil’s season is over because of a torn left calf muscle. He has been replaced on the roster by right-hander Ryan Tepera, leaving Aaron Loup as the lone lefty in John Gibbons’ bullpen.

Outlook: After averaging 5.5 runs per game in the regular season, the Blue Jays managed only seven runs in the first two games of the series (which included a 14-inning Game Two). So, what gives? Well, this happens over two-game stretches. By my count and double count, the Blue Jays were held to four or fewer runs 27 times in back-to-back games in the regular season (that is 27 of a possible 161). Beyond normal variation, it remains to be seen how bothered Tulowitzki is in his return from a fractured right shoulder blade. He is 0-for-10 this series, but, in his cracked shoulder’s defense, he had hit both poorly and far from his prolific career norms since joining the Blue Jays prior to his injury.

Toronto will face Perez, who returned from Tommy John surgery in mid-July. After pitching 12 innings of 10.50 ERA, 8.1 K% ball in his first three starts, Perez has since settled in, pitching 66 2/3 innings with a 3.37 ERA and 15.5K%. While there has not been a significant change in pitch usage or velocity (one could mention that his sinker was up to 93 mph in his last outing, but one should also mention that he had been down below 92 mph only two outing prior), the results indicate that Perez is a pitcher rounding back into his pre-Tommy John form.

Facing off against Perez for the Blue Jays is preseason acquisition (via trade) Marco Estrada, who posted the sixth-best ERA in the AL this year by cutting his HR:FB to 8.7% after coming in 10.5%, 11.9%, and 13.2% in 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively. The move out of Miller Park may have helped, but the Rogers Centre is a hitters’ park, too. He threw more cutters than ever in 2015 (8.31% of the time), but hitters slugged .609 against the pitch. The net result of adding a fourth offering might have been a positive though, as Estrada posted career lows in slugging on his changeup and curveball, and the second-lowest SLG allowed on his fastball.

The Rangers lineup that Estrada faces may or may not have Beltre, but a Beltre-less lineup (as you know) bested the Blue Jays in Game Two. Rougned Odor has been notably outstanding, but we should also recognize that Delino DeShields has been phenomenal at the top of the lineup; he is 5-for-11 with two doubles and a steal thus far in the series.

If this one comes down to the bullpens, as Game Two did, then the advantage would now figure to go to the Rangers staff, which looks deep and is finally rested. Conversely, the Blue Jays bullpen has lost its top southpaw in Cecil, a significant blow considering the volume of left-handed bats the Rangers deploy.

The Blue Jays’ vaunted offense could certainly go off in Texas, but the first two games of this series have proven the Rangers capable of containing the offensive juggernaut and doing enough at the plate to capitalize when they do. —Jeff Quinton

Royals/Astros

The Astros come home with a win in hand, their bats rolling, and their ace due to take the mound.

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) at Houston Astros (Dallas Keuchel) 4:00 p.m. Eastern

PECOTA odds of winning: 62% Astros, 38% Royals

Projected Starting Lineups:

Royals vs. Keuchel (L)

Astros vs. Volquez (R)

Alcides Escobar (R) SS

Jose Altuve (R) 2B

Ben Zobrist (S) 2B

George Springer (R) RF

Lorenzo Cain (R) CF

Carlos Correa (R) SS

Eric Hosmer (L) 1B

Colby Rasmus (L) LF

Kendrys Morales (S) DH

Evan Gattis (R) DH

Mike Moustakas (L) 3B

Luis Valbuena (L) 3B

Salvador Perez (R) C

Chris Carter (R) 1B

Alex Gordon (L) LF

Jason Castro (L) C

Alex Rios (R) RF

Jake Marisnick (R) CF

Injuries/Availability: Carlos Gomez could be in the lineup for the Astros, but he’s dealing with an oblique injury, and the safe bet with oblique injuries is that they’ll linger more and longer than you think they will. Gomez has been an effective pinch-runner, fast and fearless, but that might be all he is again Sunday. Jed Lowrie is fully healthy, or as fully healthy as Jed Lowrie gets, and should be available in a number of roles. Lorenzo Cain has been dealing with a bone bruise in his knee for sometime, and while it hasn't affected (and likely won't affect) his availability, it sounds like he's in pain. .

Outlook: The Astros’ dominance at home was a well-worn narrative coming into this series, but then, so was their futility on the road. It’s very, very hard to predict baseball. That said, this sure feels like a fish-in-a-barrel game for the Astros. Keuchel has allowed a .177 True Average at Minute Maid Park this season. He’s also allowed a .170 TAv to left-handed batters, and the Royals aren’t built in such a way as to let them replace any of Hosmer, Moustakas, or Gordon.

On the flip side, Gordon, Moustakas, and three other Royals hitters (Cain, Zobrist, and Morales) can boast a .275 or higher TAv against southpaws this season. The problem for them is this: Escobar (.245), Perez (.208), and Rios (.207) have been positively dreadful against lefties, and one of them is the likely leadoff hitter. Not to harp on this, but Esky Magic is like your kid brother’s attempt to graduate from “pick a card, any card” to “now please, observe this perfectly ordinary hat.” The kid’s getting better at the show, his patter is better, he actually makes you laugh, and you have to admit, when he does whatever the trick part is, you miss it. You fall victim to his misdirection. But the thing is, the kid is still a kid, and the trick ends with either a hole in a perfectly good top hat, or a dead rabbit.

There’s no lineup less suited to success against Dallas Keuchel than one that leans on three left-handed hitters, and includes three right-handed hitters who can’t hit, and is collectively aggressive. Keuchel’s approach is to induce opponents to chase his sinker to places where they simply can’t do anything with it, and the Royals seem likely to do just that.

Edinson Volquez will try to be the first Royals starter of the series to stop the Astros from scoring early. He’ll also try to be the first Royals starter of the season to stop the Astros from scoring early, in a game in Houston. The Astros swept Kansas City in three games June 29-July 1, in Houston, and of the 16 runs they scored in those games, 15 were on the board by the ends of the fifth innings. With Colby Rasmus doing his best 2010 Nelson Cruz impression, that task might be even harder, just now, than it was in the middle of summer.

The Astros are so well-built for their home park that it’s virtually impossible to stop them there. Right at the top of the order, in Altuve, Springer, and Correa, they have three right-handed guys with power and speed and high true BABIP skill levels. Minute Maid boosts the hit rate of all types of balls in play off the bats of right-handed hitters. It augments power, especially for right-handers, thanks to that short porch in left field. On Sunday, the Astros will get one more boost, at least relative to the first two games of the series: Volquez doesn’t hold runners on as well or trim their success rate on steals as well as Yordano Ventura or Johnny Cueto do. In all, it’s a home run of a matchup for the Astros, but maybe Esky Magic will carry the Royals to victory anyway.