Texas Rangers (+170) at Toronto Blue Jays (-177, 8 o/u)
This is why you go out and trade for an ace. A one game, winner-take-all! The Texas Rangers will send trade-deadline acquisition Cole Hamels (13-8, ERA 3.65) to the mound for Game 5 (4:07 PM Eastern); surprisingly, Toronto will counter with youngster Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67 ERA) as the team goes the distance in a series for the first time since 1985. One of these teams is making the right call and will secure a spot in the ALCS.
After dropping the first two games of the ALDS at home, it seemed improbable that Toronto fans would even get to see another game at the Rogers Centre. But a trip down south helped the league’s best offense get their swagger back, winning Games 3 and 4 decisively (5-1 and 8-4). Now the Jays have a chance to join the 2001 Yankees and the 2012 Giants as the only teams to win a playoff series after losing the first two games at home.
But Toronto made a questionable call in Game 4, pitching David Price out of the bullpen in a 7-1 game. Now their own trade-deadline ace will be unavailable for the deciding game, upping the pressure on the young Stroman. The 24-year-old wasn’t supposed to see any action at all this year after tearing his ACL in spring training. But he made a miraculous recovery and has pitched extremely well for the team since returning, including a quality Game 2 outing. After a shaky start where he surrendered three runs in the first two innings, the second-year righty settled down to retire twelve batters in order. He ended up going seven innings, with three earned runs and five Ks.
Hamels also pitched Game 2, finishing with a similar line: seven innings, four runs (two earned), and six Ks. But his start is somewhat of a surprise considering the Rangers’ Game 1 starter, Yovani Gallardo, didn’t allow a run to the Jays in two regular season starts and also pitched five innings of two-run ball in the opener on Thursday.
Regardless of who is on the bump, this figures to be a game decided by the bats. The heart of the Ranger order has been lacking this series: Adrian Beltre has been battling a back injury and Prince Fielder hasn’t batted in a postseason run in 84 straight plate appearances. Meanwhile, the top four of the Jays order combined for ten hits and seven runs in Games 3 and 4, reaching base 15 times in that span.
The favored Blue Jays looked nervous to open the series, but they appear to have gotten their swing back. When this team is rolling, the entire order is dangerous, top to bottom, as we saw yesterday when eight-hole hitter Kevin Pillar had three RBIs.
Coming into this series, if you had to take one of these teams in a winner-take-all game, it would’ve been the Blue Jays. And their effort over the last few days has restored my faith in that pick. Roll with the home team to finally win one, the all-important one.
Pick: Blue Jays (-177).
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
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