keyboard_arrow_uptop

Blue Jays/Rangers

If you believe the earnest quotes of every Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays player or coach, there won’t be a basebrawl during this series because everyone very much wants to play baseball and win baseball games. We’ll see how long that decision actually stands, though.

Toronto Blue Jays (Marco Estrada) at Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 4:30 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: 51% Rangers, 49% Blue Jays

Projected Starting Lineups

Blue Jays vs. Hamels (L)

Rangers vs. Estrada (R)

Devon Travis (R) 2B

Carlos Gomez (R) LF

Josh Donaldson (R) 3B

Ian Desmond (R) CF

Edwin Encarnación (R) 1B

Carlos Beltrán (R) DH

José Bautista (R) DH

Adrián Beltré (R) 3B

Russell Martin (R) C

Rougned Odor (L) 2B

Troy Tulowitzki (R) SS

Jonathan Lucroy (R) C

Melvin Upton (R) LF

Mitch Moreland (L) 1B

Kevin Pillar (R) CF

Elvis Andrus (R) SS

Ezequiel Carrera (L) RF

Shin-Soo Choo (L) RF

Injuries/Availability

Though Roberto Osuna came out of the Wild Card Game on Tuesday with an injury, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons seems confident that he’ll be available at some point during this series. Jose Bautista missed some time this year, most recently in August with a knee injury, but should be back to full strength by this point. For Texas, both Colby Lewis and, Shin-Soo Choo are recently back off the disabled list, and there could be some questions about their readiness for postseason play. Other than that, both teams should be at their full complement of fresh players, despite an early game and Toronto landing in Texas around 5:00 AM CT on Wednesday.

Outlook

The last time Cole Hamels pitched against the Blue Jays, he only gave up two earned runs, but his pitching performance was far from the memorable thing about that game. This time around, he gets the chance to pitch for a series-opening win. Though Hamels had some rough starts toward the end of the season, he only allowed three runs over his last 14 innings, and looked far more comfortable while pitching those innings. If he gets some decent run support, and the Rangers' bullpen continues it’s no-earned-runs-allowed dance with the devil, it could be a good night for Texas fans.

Of course, the Blue Jays would like to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke, and are sending Marco Estrada to the mound in an attempt to repeat his Game 3 performance from the 2015 ALDS. In that game, Estrada helped beat the Rangers in Texas with 6.1 one-run innings, not even needing all of the five runs his offense gave him. This Jays team is still offensively loaded, with six 20-plus home run hitters on their regular-season roster, and the big bats could give both their starters and relievers a bit of wiggle room when it comes to approaching Texas’ own powerful lineup.

The real thing to keep an eye on this series is how the emotions around it affect the play on the field, even if nothing comes to blows. There are plenty of examples of teams where this level of energy has helped forge a winning machine, and an equal number where speculation around “distractions” runs rampant. The Rangers have had some roster turnover since May, when these two teams last faced each other, and neither Jonathan Lucroy nor Carlos Beltran were with the team in the 2015 playoffs. These potentially cooler heads may prevail, or we may see a re-flaring of tempers in memorable, if less than dignified, ways. No matter what, this should be the start of a great series to watch. —Kate Morrison

Red Sox/Indians

In a different universe, the Red Sox and the Indians are gearing up for a more interesting October battle. Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are healthy, Corey Kluber has no question marks surrounding him, and the Red Sox’s bullpen picture remains a bit foggy. In this universe, though, the titanic clash between an elite offense and the game’s best rotation isn’t going to materialize.

Boston Red Sox (Rick Porcello) at Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 8:00 PM ET

PECOTA odds of winning: Indians 57%, Red Sox 43%

Projected Starting Lineups

Red Sox vs. Bauer (R)

Indians vs. Porcello (R)

Dustin Pedroia (R), 2B

Carlos Santana (S), 1B

Brock Holt (L), 3B

Jason Kipnis (L), 2B

Mookie Betts (R), RF

Francisco Lindor (S), SS

David Ortiz (L), DH

Mike Napoli (R), DH

Hanley Ramirez (R), 1B

Jose Ramirez (S), 3B

Xander Bogaerts (R), SS

Lonnie Chisenhall (L), RF

Jackie Bradley (L), CF

Rajai Davis (R), LF

Sandy Leon (S), C

Tyler Naquin (L), CF

Andrew Benintendi (L), LF

Roberto Perez (R), C

Injuries/Availability

Drew Pomeranz’s forearm issues down the stretch seem likely to forestall any playoff starts for the Red Sox’s big July trade acquisition, but he could be a valuable weapon in relief. There will be a game or two in this series during which the Indians will get to the Boston starter, and whenever that happens, Pomeranz’s ability to help bridge the gap between that starter and the triad of Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, and Craig Kimbrel could have an impact. He’s icing on the cake, too, since Joe Kelly has taken his great stuff to the bullpen and finally achieved some great results.

On the Cleveland side, the injury and availability news is all old. We know Salazar and Carrasco are out. We know Michael Brantley isn’t walking through that door. The key question that remains unanswered is to what extent Terry Francona can paper over his pitching staff’s sudden thinness by unleashing Andrew Miller. From Aug. 13-18, Francona got six innings out of Miller over the course of six days. From Sept. 14-20, Miller pitched 5.2 innings in seven days. He was dominant over both stretches. If he can deliver that kind of workload and shut down the Red Sox late in games, this series could be interesting.

Outlook

Bauer has a 6.39 ERA since the start of September, and has allowed opposing hitters to bat .278/.348/.458 over that span. Porcello has been dominant throughout the second half, pounding the strike zone, and has a reverse platoon split—bad news for the Indians, who have three switch-hitters and three left-handed hitters more or less locked into their starting lineup. The Red Sox finished the season with a sparkling .637 third-order winning percentage, lagging behind only the Cubs in MLB, and considerably better than the Tribe’s figure (.563, seventh in MLB, third in the AL), so although the Indians are the home team, the Red Sox are favorites. —Matthew Trueblood

You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe