A rivalry between teams that don’t share a division can be built through the playoffs, and the Toronto Blue Jays meeting the Texas Rangers in the ALDS for the second straight season has the potential to be even better than the series from last season.
Recap: The Blue Jays won that series in five games, which included the famous Jose Bautista bat flip, which led to Rougned Odor punching Bautista this season. The potential for fireworks is enormous, but not just fights. There should be plenty of baseball and runs: Both teams are in the top 10 in scoring this season. The Rangers probably have the scarier lineup, especially in its current form. The Blue Jays have a slight edge in pitching, but will it be enough against the team with the best record in the American League during the regular season?
Previously this season: The two teams have met for two series this season, both within the span of 14 days in May. The Blue Jays took 3-of-4 at home in the first encounter between the teams since the 2015 ALDS between them, and met again a week later in Texas, with the Rangers taking 2-of-3.
Starting pitchers: Marco Estrada will be on the mound for the Blue Jays, coming off a second straight season of allowing the least hits per nine innings (6.8) in the American League. Estrada has a 3.48 ERA through 29 starts this season, making his first All-Star game. He pitched twice against the Rangers this season: At home it went swimmingly, giving up two hits and one run through six innings, while on the road Estrada struggled, giving up five runs in the 6-5 loss. He’s faced Carlos Beltran more than any other batter in the Rangers lineup, giving up 3 home runs in 30 at bats, while Mitch Moreland also has a pretty good record against him.
Cole Hamels will be on the mound for the Rangers. The 32-year old finished with a 15-5 record this season, posting a 3.32 ERA, making the All-Star game for the first time since 2012. He pitched over 200 innings for a sixth consecutive season, and although his WHIP rose to 1.306, there were plenty of good signs for the Rangers from Hamels. He didn’t pitch against the Blue Jays this season, and overall has had trouble with some of the Blue Jays hitters, specifically Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion. However, he has owned Melvin Upton Jr. who is just 1-for-18 when facing Hamels.
Hot bats: The Rangers have been scorching lately, with three batters owning an above 1.000 OPS over the last 30 days: Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez and Adrian Beltre, who has hit six home runs in his last 22 games, batting .349. Bautista has been the Blue Jays best hitter recently, also picking up an RBI in the win over the Orioles. However, Edwin Encarnacion with that 3-run homer to lift them over Baltimore has to be the hottest one at the moment.