ALDS Game 4 Preview: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Wild Card games are over and the Divisional Series matchups are set. TheTexas Rangers will play the Toronto Blue Jays in the best of five series. Pete Hodges has an ALDS game 4 preview of the matchup.

Texas Rangers (88-74) vs Toronto Blue Jays (93-69)

Blue Jays won the season series (4-2)

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Texas won 5-3

Game 2: Texas won 6-4 in 14 innings

Game 3: Toronto won 5-1

Game 4 (if needed) @ Texas TBD 10/12 2015 on FS1

Game 5 (if needed) @Toronto TBD 10/14 on FS1

All times are Eastern

Probable Starters:

Game 4:  Derek Holland (L) (4-3) vs. R.A. Dickey (11-11) (R)

Game 5: TBD vs. David Price (L) (18-5)

Game 3 Recap

Toronto came into this game trailing 2-0 in the best of three series. I might be mistaken, but I think this would be what the pundits call a “must win” game.

Toronto starter, Marco Estrada, brought his A-game, pitching a shutout through the first six innings. The Texas starter, Martin Perez,  was able to match his performance through the first two innings. Then Dioner Navarro led off the third with a double. Kevin Pillar moved him to third with a single and he came around to score when Ryan Goins hit into a double play.

Toronto used the same game plan in the fourth inning, as Josh Donaldson doubled to deep center to lead off the inning. A Jose Bautista fly out to center advanced Donaldson to third. Texas then walked Edwin Encarnacion to set up the double play. However, that strategy failed when Perez walked Chris Colabello, but did set up the always popular bases loaded double play. That strategy also failed when Perez walked Tulowitzki, bringing the runner in. Finally, Perez was able to induce Navarro to hit a ground ball for a double play to end the inning. Cheers were heard across the state.

The Toronto lead remained 2-0 into the 6th, when both Donaldson and Bautista reached base on singles. Perez was replaced by Chi Chi Gonzalez, who walked Encarnacion to load the bases. After Colabello hit into a double play, Tulowitzki launched a three-run homer to left, giving Toronto a five-run lead.

Estrada was still pitching a shutout in the seventh when Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton (breaking a 0-31 hitless streak) singled with one out in the inning. Aaron Loup entered the game to face Rougned Odor who grounded to short, scoring Andrus from third for the Rangers first, and only, run of the day.

Both teams cycled through relief pitchers until Roberto Osuna closed it out in the ninth, and Toronto earned the victory and a Game 4.

Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers were able to pass the Houston Astros in the standings despite a poor start to the season, acquiring Cole Hamels at the trade deadline to lead their rotation.

Overall

The Rangers scored 751 runs this season, good for 3rd place in the AL. They were middle of the pack in hitting home runs (7th place) with 172 long balls. Texas stole 101 bases, putting them in 3rd place. Their team combined to hit .257/.325/.413 with a .300 BABIP. The Rangers had the 5th best wOBA in the AL tied with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .321.

Starters

The rotation had a 62-54 record on the year with a 4.32 ERA, 4.39 FIP and 4.51 xFIP. Their batting average against was .266 and they had a K% of 15.7, while walking 7.6% of batters, with a WHIP of 1.37. The rotation was led by Yovani Gallardo until the acquisition of Hamels.

Postseason veteran Derek Holland climbs on the hill for the Rangers in Game 4, making his first start in the playoffs. The lefty exited on Opening Day for the Rangers after just one inning with shoulder soreness that was diagnosed as a subscapular strain. Holland would not return until August 19. In his 9 starts down the stretch, he posted a 4-3 record with a 4.84 ERA, 5.11 FIP, and a 4.42 xFIP. The “Dutch Oven” throws a four-seam heater (37.38%), sinker (21.44%) and slider (21.78%). He also mixes in a curve (12.62%) and changeup (6.78%). The lefty’s fastball is thrown at 94-mph while his slider comes in around 84-mph.

*We have combined Holland’s 2014 and 2015 PITCHf/x data since he was limited to 10 starts in 2015.

The Relievers

The Rangers’ bullpen posted a 26-20 record, sporting a 4.12 ERA in 502 innings pitched. The bullpen had 45 saves and 94 holds, while blowing 17 saves. They had a K/9 of 8.19 and a poor 3.60 BB/9. They allowed a 1.13 HR/9 with a batting average against of .245 and a BABIP of .290.

Shawn Tolleson took over as the closer in late May and finished the season with 35 saves while striking out 9.46 batter per nine innings and walking 2.12. Tolleson did not get the save opportunity in Game 1. The likely reason for this is that the Rangers had a three-run lead and Game 2 is at 12:45 today and the Rangers wanted to rest the closer if possible.

The Offense

Texas improved in the second half hitting .270/.341/.430, after hitting .247/.312/.400 in the first half of the season. They have a fairly even split when it comes to pitcher handedness, hitting .260/.328/.413 against righties and .253/.321/.414 versus lefties. The Rangers hit much better at home with a .274/.343/.442 line, while struggling to a .241/.307/.385 line away from Globe Life Park.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays made huge moves at the trade deadline, acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, among others. These moves propelled the Blue Jays to a AL East winning 93-69 record.

Overall

The Blue Jays had by far the most runs scored in baseball with 891 ‒ 127 more than the second place Yankees. They led the AL in home runs (232) and had the fourth most steals (88). The team hit a combined .269/.340/.457 with a league-leading .344 wOBA.

The Starters

Toronto’s rotation went 62-54 putting up a 4.32 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 4.53xFIP in 940 ⅔ innings of work. They held opponents to a .266 BAA while walking 7.6% and striking out 15.7%, with a 1.37 WHIP.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey takes the mound for the Blue Jays in the must-win Game 4 for his first career postseason start more than 14 years after his major-league debut for the Texas Rangers. The veteran took the ball 33 times this year with a 3.91 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, a 4.72 xFIP, and an 11-11 record. Dickey relies heavily on his knuckleball (89.47%) while mixing in four-seam fastball (5.19%) and sinker (4.54%). His knuckleball flutters in around 76-mph while his heater comes in at a blazing 82-mph.

The Bullpen

The Blue Jays’ bullpen had a 26-20 record, with 45 saves, 94 holds and 17 blown saves in 502 innings of work. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.19 and 3.60, respectively. The bullpen allowed 1.13 HR/9 and a BAA of .245. Their BABIP was .290.

20-year-old Roberto Osuna took over the closer’s role in late-June and has saved 20 games while only blowing three opportunities.

The Offense

The MLB-leading offense improved dramatically in the second half, hitting .274/.350/.478 after putting up a .264/.331/.441 in the first half. The Blue Jays lineup hit .266/.335/.455 against right-handed pitching, while feasting on left-handed pitching to the tune of .278/.354/.463. At home, the Blue Jays were significantly better than on the road: .278/.351/.485 at the Rogers Centre and just .260/.329/.431 away.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Toronto’s high-powered offense is led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. Donaldson’s first year in Toronto went as well as anyone could have hoped, hitting 41 home runs with a .297/.371/.568 line. So far, Donaldson only has one hit in the playoffs, but it was a home run. He’s joined by sluggers Jose Bautista (40), who hit a home run in Game 1, and Edwin Encarnacion (39 HR).

Pete Hodges has also written about the origins of the rally cap and the call up of Luis Severino.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PeterWHodges.

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