MLB·Preview

Blue Jays host Rangers in do-or-die Game 5 of ALDS

The Toronto Blue Jays will attempt to win their first playoff series since 1993 when Marcus Stroman takes the mound at home in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Cole Hamels and the Texas Rangers on Wednesday (4:07 p.m. ET).

Toronto has momentum after winning Games 3, 4 in Texas

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston on CBC

7 years ago
Duration 4:26
Beeston spoke with CBC on everything Blue Jays before Game 5 vs Texas. Beeston has been with the Jays since 1976 and will be retiring after the season

Josh Donaldson's .330 batting average. Jose Bautista's 23 home runs. Chris Colabello's .375 on-base percentage. And Kevin Pillar's series of highlight-reel catches.

These performances by Blue Jays players occurred in 2015 during the regular season at home, where Toronto posted a 53-28 record and will play the Texas Rangers in Wednesday's do-or-die Game 5 of their American League Division Series (4:07 p.m. ET).

Perhaps jitters from a roster full of athletes competing in their first major-league post-season was the reason the Blue Jays' offence was fairly quiet in Games 1 and 2 at the Rogers Centre, where Toronto batters went 14-for-82 (.171) with a .209 on-base percentage (OBP) and .502 on-base-plus slugging (OPS) percentage.

During the regular campaign, the Jays hit .278 on home turf with a .351 OBP and .836 OPS, compared to a .260/.329/.760 slash line on the road.

"It's going to be nuts [at the Rogers Centre]. Love it. It's going to be awesome," Toronto catcher Russell Martin said.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons added: "We've always been good at home. We didn't win either of the first two [games in this series], but we always expect to win here."

The manager's confidence filters down through his players, in particular 24-year-old pitcher Marcus Stroman, who starts on the mound Wednesday after he set down 14 consecutive hitters following a shaky Game 2 start on Oct. 9 in Toronto.

Stroman worked his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that was suffered in spring training. Since his return, he has gone 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four regular-season starts before allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits over seven innings against the Rangers in his lone post-season appearance.

Stroman is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his career versus Texas, and 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA at the Rogers Centre.

If anybody can rise to the occasion it'll be him.- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons on Game 5 starter Marcus Stroman

Gibbons anointed the intense five-foot-nine right-hander his Game 5 starter after David Price pitched three innings of relief in Toronto's 8-4, Game 4 victory in Arlington, Texas, on Monday.

"There's something different about him," Gibbons told reporters of Stroman. "If anybody can rise to the occasion it'll be him."

As for Price, Gibbons said he wouldn't count on the left-hander being available to pitch out of the bullpen in Game 5. He also confirmed Wednesday that fellow lefty Aaron Loup is still unavailable because of a family matter.

Before the post-season, many would have figured the 30-year-old Price to be the Blue Jays' projected Game 5 starter after he was dominant following a trade from Detroit, winning nine of his 11 starts with a 2.30 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 74-1/3 innings.

Wednesday's pitching matchup is a Game 2 rematch, with veteran lefty Cole Hamels set for Texas. Blue Jays hitters would be advised to reach base early and often against the 2008 World Series MVP, as they did in Game 2, scoring three runs in the first two innings.

Hamels then settled down, retiring the final eight hitters he faced, including four of the last five via strikeout. Five relievers followed Hamels and tossed seven shutout innings in a 6-4 Rangers win in 14 innings.

'Confidence boost'

"Who else would you rather have on the mound when you have to win a game than your ace," said Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez of Hamels, who is 7-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 14 playoff starts, but is 0-2 with a 5.85 ERA in his career against the Jays. "The fact that he has been there before is really, I think, the biggest confidence boost."

But a Toronto offence that led the majors in runs scored (891), home runs (232), OBP (.340) and total bases (2,518) caught fire in Texas, racking up 13 runs and 21 hits, while Rangers starters Martin Perez and Derek Holland didn't last more than five innings.

"I've said all year, once I've gotten to know these guys, there's something different about this group," Gibbons said. "They don't lack confidence. …

"It's never a group that really ran from anything, backed down from anything. Those two games in Texas look a lot more like our team that we've seen all year, so hopefully that's a good thing going into [Wednesday]."

The winner of Wednesday's contest will face the winner of Game 5 between the Houston Astros and hometown Kansas City Royals (8:07 p.m. ET) in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

NOTES:

  • Blue Jays CF Kevin Pillar is 5-for-8 with a home run and three RBIs in the last two games.
  • Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre (back) returned to the lineup in Game 4 and went 2-for-4.
  • Texas 1B Mitch Moreland is 0-for-10 in the series.

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