The Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in the opposite situation from last fall as they return home to try sweep the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers in Game 3 on Sunday.
In 2015, the Rangers went up 2-0 on Toronto with two wins on the road only to drop three straight and miss out on a trip to the AL Championship Series.
“I learned something last year,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters. “You know what, you gotta win three games. They’ve got a great team over there. You don’t lead the American League, powerhouse league, you don’t luck into that.”
For Texas to author a turnaround similar to what Toronto did last season, it not only needs to find a way to win in a hostile environment but needs to find some pitchers to keep the ball in the park after surrendering six home runs in the first two games of the series.
“We’ve got to come out, get a clean game from the starter,” Rangers manager Jeff Bannister told reporters. “Manage the game from the starting spot. Play good defence and capitalize on run-scoring opportunities, and we’ve got to start with one [win]. It’s an uphill battle, one that is going to be a challenge.”
- Rangers RH Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.71 ERA) vs. Blue Jays RH Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00)
Lewis surrendered 19 home runs in 116 1/3 innings this season, with six coming in four starts after being activated from the disabled list Sept. 11. The 37-year-old went 0-4 with a 6.38 ERA in those four turns but has been solid in the playoffs in the past, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.38 ERA in nine games (eight starts). Lewis came out of the bullpen against Toronto in the 2015 ALDS and surrendered one run in three innings.
Sanchez led the AL in ERA during the regular season and helped the Blue Jays clinch home advantage for the AL wild-card game by taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Boston on the final day of the regular season. The 24-year-old blew past his projected innings threshold but is showing no signs of slowing with a total of three runs allowed and 21 strikeouts in 19 innings over his last three starts.
“This is why you work so hard: for moments like these, opportunities like these,” Sanchez said. “And I couldn’t be more prepared to come out here and try to lock this thing up for us.”
One of Sanchez’s worst outings of the season came at Texas on May 15, when he was lit up for six runs, seven hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings.
- Blue Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki is 5-for-9 with a home run and five RBIs in the series.
- The Rangers are 2-for-19 with runners in scoring position in the series, including 2-for-18 in Game 2.
- Toronto LHP Francisco Liriano was taken to the hospital Friday for precautionary tests after being struck in the neck by a line drive, but flew home with the team. He was later diagnosed with a mild concussion and there is no timeline for his return. Toronto added right-handed pitcher Danny Barnes to take Liriano’s
place in the Blue Jays bullpen.