The Rangers never ever quit this season. They overcame back-breaking injuries to Jurickson Profar and Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. They survived an 8-16 start, staged one of baseball’s biggest late-season rallies, hung on to win the AL West and became one of baseball’s feel-good stories.
Their reward? A date with the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series. Meet the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays, the closest thing you’ll find to the legendary 1927 New York Yankees.
Of ESPN’s 22 baseball experts, exactly 0 picked the Rangers to win their Best of 5 ALDS that starts Thursday in Canada. And with good reason. While the Rangers are scrappy, the Blue Jays are scary.
Led by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and probable AL MVP Josh Donaldson – who led the league in both runs and RBI – the Blue Jays led all of baseball in runs, homers, extra-base hits, walks, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. They scored 891 runs. No other team scored 800. Simply put, they are by far the best offense in baseball this year and one of the greatest of all- time. Their run margin over the next-best team of +127 has been achieved only four times in baseball history, including once by the “Murderer’s Row” Yanks led by guys named Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. How dominant was Toronto in the regular season? It outscored opponents by a whopping 221 runs. The Rangers outscored theirs by 18.
With catcher Russell Martin, 2nd baseman Ryan Goins, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and center-fielder Kevin Pillar, the Jays are as strong up the middle as any team in baseball. By most metrics they are Top 5 in defensive efficiency. They made 88 errors this season; the Rangers 119.
We can highlight the bats and gloves all we want, but we’ve learned time and again that a World Series can be won almost single-handedly by a hot pitcher. Right, Madison Bumgarner? The Jays have their candidate, and the Rangers will fully recognize him: David Price.
The Rangers have their ace in Cole Hamels but because they were stretched to the final day of the season to clinch their division he won’t start until Game 2. Price could conceivably start Games 1 and 5, if necessary. The good news? While he was with Tampa, the Rangers have beaten Price in the postseason – part of his 0-5 record in the playoffs. The bad news? This is a new-and-improved Price.
Since arriving via trade from the Tigers, he’s 9-1 with a 2.31 ERA.
And he’s just the beginning of the trouble. Toronto backs up their ace with Marco Estrada, former Ranger R.A. Dickey and Marcus Stroman, who has returned from knee surgery to go 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA down the stretch. Price and Stroman can blow you away with heat, Estrada has one of the best change-ups in the game and then there’s Dickey and his knuckleball. It’s variety. And it’s quality.
Only hope is that the Jay’s bullpen is too young – set-up man Aaron Sanchez is 23; closer Roberto Osuna is 20 – to handle the situation.
In short the Jays are the ’10 Rangers. With an ace like Cliff Lee, an MVP-candidate like Josh Hamilton and a young fire-balling closer like Neftali Feliz.
Since beginning the season 51-51, the Jays finished 42-18. They might win the World Series, but if they don’t beat the heavily underdog Rangers it will be a colossal upset.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.