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ALDS Game #2 Preview: Rangers @ Blue Jays

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Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

With a very short turnaround, Game 2 of the series will kick off this afternoon at 12:45pm. The contest will open a quadrupleheader of playoff games today, which is heaven for anyone who likes baseball. If you don't like baseball why are you on this site? It's not for birdwatching. Anyway, Cole Hamels gets the start today against young Marcus Stroman. It's cliché to say, but this game is the true turning point of the series. If Stroman can find a way to outlast the playoff-tested ace in Hamels, then the Blue Jays will be in okay shape heading to Arlington for Sunday's game three against the Rangers. If Hamels pulls it out, then Toronto's season will be on life support.

Hamels, a southpaw, has been so consistently good for such a long time that it's almost a shame he was on so many bad Phillies teams in the last couple years. The trade deadline changed all that though, as the 31-year-old was shipped off to Texas for relative peanuts. He's done a tremendous job of earning his massive deal that runs from 2012-2019 by pitching year after year of 4+ WAR performances. Hamels hasn't seen the postseason since 2011, but in 13 playoff starts he's got an ERA of 3.09 to go along with a World Series MVP award in 2008.

If you want a bright spot from the home team point of view, Hamels has been not so good against the Blue Jays in four lifetime starts, but they're spread out over the course of his ten-year career and hold very little value.

The lefty has actually gained velocity over the course of his career and sits in the low- to mid-90's with his fastball. To go with the heater, he throws a changeup, cutter, and curveball. If you've heard about Cole Hamels, you've heard about his changeup. One of the best pitches in the game, the change has had positive pitch value for nine years running, which is just phenomenal.

Against left-handed hitters, Hamels stays hard with the fastball and cutter while righties see the changeup 25% of the time along with the fastballs and curve. The San Diego native has not seen his 23% career strikeout rate dip an inch in his storied career and his walks have only slightly increased this year. Of course, Ben Revere played with Hamels for a few years in Philadelphia before both men were traded this July so maybe the Jays left fielder has the inside scoop on the Rangers ace.

In terms of movement, Hamels' changeup perfectly replicates his sinker with 8 mph of separation making it extremely difficult for hitters to get a read on the pitch. The curveball features good hard break that can cause some funky swings if the batter is sitting on something else.


That changeup:


via FTW USA Today Sports

A smart guy, a great pitcher, a charitable man. In a series where everyone is struggling to hate the other team, Cole Hamels doesn't make it any easier.

Marcus Stroman goes for the Blue Jays in this one, making his first career postseason start. The 24-year-old will be seriously pumped for this game and could throw the first pitch through the backstop. The small righty has faced Texas once in his career back in July of last year and dominated a lineup with some familiar faces to this Rangers squad. In fact, at least four of the players who faced Stroman on that day last year figure to be starting the game this afternoon.

Probable Blue Jays Lineup

Hamels is pretty split-neutral thanks to his changeup (did you hear he has a good changeup?), but it would still be wise to avoid having Justin Smoak in this game. Hopefully both Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson can go in this one.

  1. Ben Revere LF
  2. Josh Donaldson 3B
  3. Jose Bautista RF
  4. Edwin Encarnacion DH
  5. Troy Tulowitzki SS
  6. Chris Colabello 1B
  7. Russell Martin C
  8. Ryan Goins 2B
  9. Kevin Pillar CF

Find The Link

Find the link between Cole Hamels and the right fielder who hit a home run against the Vancouver Canadians on the same day that Drew Hutchison won his 11th game of the year.

If yesterday's game was tilted in the Blue Jays' favour, you'd have to say that today's game is just slightly tilted in the Rangers' favour. Enjoy the game! I'm lucky enough to have a ticket to this pitching matchup for the ages.