The Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers slapped together two impressive and overpowering second-half surges to reach the postseason, beginning with Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday afternoon at Rogers Center.
At the All-Star break the Blue Jays were 45-46 but thanks to some key acquisitions and the best offense in baseball, John Gibbons' squad went 48-23 in the second-half of the regular season to wrap-up their first AL East title and playoff berth in more than 20 years.
The Rangers and first-year manager Jeff Banister faced an even deeper 42-46 hole, but also made some risky moves at the trade deadline and fought off their division rivals to go 46-28 in the second half to complete a surreal turnaround from last year’s 95-loss run.
Now the Blue Jays send out maybe their most prized and clever move in years, starting pitcher David Price, to win their first playoff game since 1993’s World Series title.
Price, who began the season with the Detroit Tigers, went 9-1 with an AL-best 2.45 ERA once he donned a Toronto uniform, and hasn’t lost a start since the last day of August.
The Rangers will wait until Game 2 to roll out their prized starter and late-season addition, Cole Hamels. The southpaw, who won the NLCS MVP in 2008, finished with a 7-1 record with a 3.66 ERA. But Banister should have confidence in Yovani Gallardo, who posted a career-year with a team-high 3.42 ERA and 121 strikeouts for a 13-11 record.
At first glance the pitching duel might seem uneven, given how dominate Price has been, but Gallardo’s the only Rangers starter who managed to thwart Toronto’s dominate lineup in the regular season, and he did it twice.
Texas went 2-4 against Toronto this season, and Gallardo’s work accounted for both wins. Over 13 2/3 innings, Gallardo scattered just six hits and five walks with six strikeouts. The 29-year-old didn’t allow a single run to a Blue Jays lineup that poured in 891 runs, and 127 more than the No. 2 New York Yankees.
First Pitch: 3:37 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Live Online: FoxSportsGo