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ALDS Game 3 preview: Can the Rangers complete the sweep of the top-seeded Blue Jays?

By Cliff Corcoran
October 11, 2015

Series: ALDS Game 3, Rangers lead 2–0

Start Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: FOX Sports 1

Starting Pitchers: Marco Estrada (13–8, 3.13 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (3–6, 4.46 ERA)

• With the series moving from Toronto to Arlington, it should be noted that the Blue Jays and Rangers’ home and road records from the regular season are a bit misleading. The Blue Jays were a game below .500 on the road (40–41), but had a +63 run differential on the road, which translates to a .576 Pythagorean winning percentage. Even more confusing are the Rangers’ home/road splits. Texas had a better record on the road but a better run differential at home, as it only outscored its opponents by one run on the road over the course of the entire season. However, the Rangers’ Pythagorean winning percentage based on their +17 run differential at home (.521) is still 10 points lower than their actual home winning percentage of .531. The upshot here is that the Rangers had success at home and on the road, and the Blue Jays are a better road team than their record implies.

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• The starting pitchers in this game will be making their first career postseason starts. Estrada did make four postseason relief appearances for the 2011 Brewers (two good, two bad). The 24-year-old Perez, however, has never appeared in the postseason. What’s more, he has never faced the Blue Jays before. Only six men on the Blue Jays ALDS roster have faced Perez before, including backup infielder Cliff Pennington, who is unlikely to face him in this game. The other five—in order of plate appearances: Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, Ben Revere, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin—have combined to hit .294/.442/.529 against the lefty. Indeed, the Blue Jays’ righthanded murderer’s row seems like a particularly poor matchup for Perez, against whom righties hit .304/.352/.425 this year and .283/.340/.427 in his career.

• The Rangers are also fairly inexperienced against longtime National Leaguer Estrada, who held them to one run on six innings in his lone start against them this year. None of the Rangers’ likely starters has had more than six career plate appearances against Estrada, though it might be worth noting that first baseman Mitch Moreland is 3 for 5 with a home run against him. Estrada’s success this season has come with a heaping help of luck on balls in play. On the season, his opponents hit .217 on balls in play. Over his last dozen starts, he has posted a 2.59 ERA with the help of a .163 BABIP. Estrada did reintroduce a cutter to his repertoire this year, but he remains an extreme fly-ball pitcher with a sub-par strikeout rate, and his changeup remains his best pitch.

• This has been a surprisingly pitching-heavy series thus far. The teams are hitting below .200/.300/.300 through two games, combining for a .184/.243/.294 line, and the two teams have combined to average 3.5 runs per team per nine innings after combining to average roughly 5.0 runs per nine innings during the regular season. The big difference between the 2–0 Rangers and the 0–2 Blue Jays seems to be that the Rangers have had five more men on base via walks and being hit by pitches. Specifically, rookie leadoff man Delino Deshields and sophomore second baseman Rougned Odor have been getting on base and finding their way home with considerable frequency. Odor has reached base five times in 10 plate appearances and has scored all five times, while DeShields has reached five times in 11 plate appearances and scored thrice. The two have thus combined to score eight of the Rangers’ 11 runs in this series. In contrast, no Blue Jay has scored more than once.

• UPDATE: Adrian Beltre, who was excused from Saturday’s workout to rest his sore lower back, is not in Jeff Banister’s initial lineup. Banister has not ruled out a last-minute change, however, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

• UPDATE: If the Jays do mount a comeback, they'll have to do it without their best lefthanded reliever. Brett Cecil tore his left calf leaping over Mike Napoli in a run-down play in the eighth inning of Game 2. He has been replaced on the roster by rookie righty Ryan Tepera, leaving Aaron Loup as the only lefty in the Toronto bullpen.

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)