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ALDS Game #5 Preview: Rangers @ Blue Jays

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Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Well well, what do we have here. A winner-take-all Game Five at home against the Texas Rangers at 4pm is what it appears to be. At first the series looked like a straightforward matchup that the Blue Jays would dominate, then after two games it looked like a completely unattainable goal. Now it's back to being a complete toss-up. That's playoff baseball apparently. Storylines abound, the teams will take the field this afternoon for the right to join the Chicago Cubs in the next round of the postseason.

The pitching matchup is exactly the same as Game Two, although the surrounding circumstances are very different. A start that David Price would normally be pencilled in for has been handed to the young stud in Stroman against the endless amount of postseason experience in Cole HamelsThe preview on Friday went in-depth into this pitching matchup so instead we'll focus on what the two hurlers did in that game just a few days ago.

In Game Two, Hamels went seven innings despite always looking one hit away from being knocked out of the game. The lefty threw 114 high-pressure pitches and enters this afternoon's game on regular four days rest. For all of the chaos going on inside the Rogers Centre, Hamels was calm and collected throughout the game. He did get touched up in the early innings by the Donaldson home run in the first and the string of hits put together by the Jays in the second. The Donaldson smash came off of a pretty solid changeup that hung just a little too long in the hitting zone of the Jays third baseman:

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After the two-run second that tied the game, Hamels calmed down and started dealing. It wasn't until the fifth inning when the Jays touched him again, as a Pillar double was manufactured into a run despite the lefty making some good pitches in a tight spot. For the next two innings Hamels sat down the six batters in order, including four of them coming on strikeouts. If you watch the highlight video below, you'll see that the former Phillies ace was pounding the outside half over and over and over again. Rarely venturing inside with hittable pitches against righties, Hamels went to either one of his three fastballs or more likely his changeup when he needed a big strike.

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In graphical form the story is the same, with Hamels sticking to his changeup down and away while his cutter was the main weapon in on RHH to keep them honest:

Hamels

Of course, if Hamels happens to be unable to execute his clear game plan this afternoon then he'll receive the quick hook in favour of Yovani Gallardo. The man who happens to have succeeded against the Blue Jays in Game One with the same plan. His chart is even more remarkable, as it was obvious during the game that he was willing to only throw pitches in the lower outside quarter to RHH:

Gallardo

When you see the two pitchers that the Blue Jays will face this afternoon, it definitely has to give you some worry. Both guys dominated the team last week and executed their plans to an absolute T, with either of them ready to shoulder the load today. The only hope is that Toronto is able to adjust their approach and just take what is given to them. None of the pitches in the charts above are easily hit for home runs, but some of the fringe offerings can definitely be hit the other way for more modest returns. Unfortunately for the Jays they may have to go contrary to their team DNA and make it a "death by a million cuts" scenario against these precise nibblers they are facing.

Opposing them on the hill for the Blue Jays will be Marcus Stroman, who was extremely strong despite two shaky innings out of the shoot on Friday. Errors abound early in the game, Stroman let the Rangers walk all over him before settling down and dominating in the middle innings. A double by the first batter faced was the most damaging hit Texas was able to muster off Stroman, getting their runs across with a mixture of singles, errors, and sacrifices. From the third inning on, the small righty retired 11 in a row with his stat line not really reflecting how well he pitched. Despite allowing four runs, only three were earned and one of those was actually allowed by Brett Cecil in the eighth.

Most people know what the Duke grad throws by now, but in Game Two he went with a ton of sinkers. Like over 50%. He complimented those with cutters, sliders, and curveballs which all resemble each other but feature a slight change in velocity and/or movement. As you can see, it was sinkers in the zone all day for Stroman while his off-speed pitches were kept low, away from much trouble:

Stroman

The young righty will be counted on to allow minimal runs this afternoon, as the opposing pitchers are rock solid. For the team to have a chance, it seems like it will take Stroman allowing just three to four runs maximum and going deep into the game. A tall task for a man that wasn't supposed to be pitching until next season. Let's see if he proves us wrong again.

Hopeful Lineup

Despite how well the Rangers pitchers nibble against right-handed hitters, they're just as hard on lefties.

  1. Ben Revere LF
  2. Josh Donaldson 3B
  3. Jose Bautista RF
  4. Edwin Encarnacion DH
  5. Chris Colabello 1B
  6. Troy Tulowitzki SS
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Kevin Pillar CF
  9. Ryan Goins 2B
In terms of the bullpen, your guess is as good as mine. David Price may be available in a small quantity today? Aaron Loup may not be available at all? The left-handed heavy lineup in the Rangers may have the benefit of not having to face up against any southpaw pitchers at all, which would certainly be bad news for the Blue Jays. Aaron Sanchez has also been worked to the bone this series, so who knows how much gas he has left in the tank.

Find the Link

Find the link between Cole Hamels and the best goalie in the NHL during the 2002-2003 season based off rate stats.

Enjoy the game this afternoon! It's going to be one that is talked about for years to come regardless of the result.