The Blue Jays will look to become just the third team in MLB history to win a best-of-five series after losing its first two games at home. Although completing the comeback attempt would be far from ordinary, Toronto's current roster is an even greater outlier. Through a combination of strong match-ups and robust skill sets, the Blue Jays have a real shot at the comeback.
To be eliminated from the ALDS, this group of players will have to lose a game in which they are the favourites. Toronto's remaining starters combined for a 3.16 earned run average this season, and will be supported by an offence that lead the MLB in runs by a country mile. The Rangers will not be starting top pitchers in the next two games, and a potential hall-of-fame player in Adrian Beltre could miss the series entirely due to injury.
There are plenty of reasons to believe the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays season is far from finished:
Death to Left-Handed Pitchers
Jose Bautista may be a cereal fanatic, but it is left-handed pitchers that he eats for breakfast. Per Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), the 2015 Blue Jays hit southpaws better than any team since the 2003 San Francisco Giants. It just so happens that Texas' next two probable starters, Martin Perez and Derek Holland, throw with their left hand. Cole Hamels may be dominant enough to keep an abundance of right-handed hitters in check, but both Perez and Holland have been rather mediocre against right-handed hitters throughout their careers.
Since returning from the disabled list on August 19th, Holland has allowed nine home runs to righties in as many starts. Though Perez has effectively kept the ball in the park, right-handed hitters have a .300 batting average against him this season. The Rangers could start Colby Lewis in game four in place of Holland, but he has the forth highest ERA among qualified starters over the last two seasons. Although Blue Jays hitters have been rather uninspiring this postseason, an offensive breakout could surely be on the horizon.
Practically Made Of Winning Streaks
If coming back from a 2-0 series deficit is unlikely, having multiple 11 game winning streaks in the same season is just about unheard of. Another 11 winning streak would win the Blue Jays the World Series, yet alone the ALDS. Toronto swept a series against the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, and Detroit Tigers in August alone.
When a team boasts a run differential of +221 in the regular season, winning three consecutive games becomes a routine occurrence. Meanwhile, the Rangers run differential of +18 also placed behind the Astros, Royals, Yankees, Indians, and Orioles in the American League. Though Texas has improved through its additions late in the season, the loss of Adrian Beltre would nearly offset that. With two 11 game winning streaks and six series sweeps since the Tulowitzki trade, suddenly a 3 game winning streak does not seem so unlikely after all.
A Potential AL Cy Young Would Start Game 5
If the Blue Jays can defeat a pair of left-handed starters, one of the best pitchers in baseball would start for the Blue Jays in the series finale. David Price was 3rd among MLB pitchers in WAR this season, while Cole Hamels and Yovani Gallardo finished 18th and 54th respectively. Clearly, the pitching matchup in game five would be an advantage for Toronto. Could the Texas Rangers manage to beat Price two times in one series? If the Rangers do start Hamels over Gallardo, Toronto will face yet another left-handed starter. Though the Rangers took game one, the Blue Jays would have to be considered the favourites in the winner-takes-all matchup.
There is no reason to worry about Price's track record in the playoffs. David has pitched in numerous big games throughout his career and has performed just fine. He pitched in very important games against the New York Yankees this season and dominated. Don't be fooled by six postseason starts, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. If the Blue Jays can get to game five, expect to see an ace-like performance.
"It Ain't Over Till It's Over"
The Rangers may hold a 2-0 series lead, but the Blue Jays still have a real shot at winning the ALDS. By continuing to crush left-handed pitching, having another patented winning streak, and starting David Price in game five, this group may certainly be up to the challenge. The story is far from finished.