We're through one game of ALDS action, and so far the Rangers and Astros both hold 1-0 series leads over the Blue Jays and Royals, respectively. Here's a look at Game 2 of each series.
Rangers lead Blue Jays, 1-0
Game 2: 9:45 a.m. PT
TV: MLB Network
Starters: Cole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman
Yovani Gallardo beat David Price and Toronto's MLB-best offense 5-3 in Game 1, because playoff baseball is a cruel joke that makes no sense. Josh Donaldson (0-for-1 with a walk) left for precautionary reasons after hitting his head making a takeout slide at second base, but it sounds like he's okay and will be playing in Game 2. There are two other former Athletics in this series:
Cliff Pennington, IF: Pennington actually replaced Donaldson in the field when the latter exited Game 1. He eventually got one at-bat, flying out in the 8th. He started his year in Arizona and posted a 63 OPS+ in 157 PAs, and then moved to Toronto as a two-month rental and posted a 53 OPS+ in 92 PAs. And yet, his defense has been good enough that he's been at or slightly above replacement-level* for both teams. So, classic Pennington, really. Can you believe he's only 31 years old?
* via bWAR, not fWAR
Colby Lewis, RHP: I don't really hold any special attachment to Lewis as a former Athletic, but he technically qualifies. He only pitched one season for Oakland back in 2007, and it was right after that stint that he went to Japan, learned how to actually pitch well, and then came back to help our division rival. So yeah, not at the top of my list of personal faves. But I respect the hell out of him, no matter how much I might talk like I can't stand him sometimes, because he's gone through a lot in his path to the bigs. There were plenty of times when the born-and-bred Bakersfield native could have given up, but here he is at age 36, still pitching in the MLB playoffs. Good on him. I don't know if he'll start or come out of the pen, as after Gallardo and Game 2 starter Cole Hamels the Rangers also have a pair of high-upside lefties who have recently fought back from injuries in Derek Holland and Martin Perez.
(Note that Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion and Texas' Chris Gimenez were each briefly in the A's organization during offseason months, but never played games for the A's or any Oakland affiliate.)
|TEXAS RANGERS||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Delino DeShields Jr. - CF||Ben Revere - LF|
|Shin-Soo Choo - RF||Josh Donaldson - 3B|
|Prince Fielder - DH||Jose Bautista - RF|
|Mitch Moreland - 1B||Edwin Encarnacion - DH|
|Elvis Andrus - SS||Troy Tulowitzki - SS|
|Josh Hamilton - LF||Chris Colabello - 1B|
|Rougned Odor - 2B||Russell Martin - C|
|Chris Gimenez - C||Kevin Pillar - CF|
|Hanser Alberto - 3B||Ryan Goins - 2B|
|Cole Hamels - LHP||Marcus Stroman - RHP|
Astros lead Royals, 1-0
Game 2: 12:45 p.m. PT
Where: Kansas City
TV: Fox Sports 1
Starters: Scott Kazmir vs. Johnny Cueto
How the tables turned in Game 1. The Royals, boasting the best record in the AL, lost the opener to an upstart wild card team, just as they themselves did to the top-seeded Angels last year. Will Houston finish the job like Kansas City did in its 2014 ALDS sweep, or will the Royals fight back in Game 2?
Both teams call on the prized midseason acquisitions in their starting rotations on Friday. For Houston, that means former Athletic Scott Kazmir, who made 13 starts as an Astro but had only five quality outings and posted a 4.17 ERA (97 ERA+). Former Reds ace Johnny Cueto had more quality starts with his new team than Kaz did (7-of-13), but his overall ERA was worse at 4.76 (87 ERA+). Cueto's last two postseason appearances have gone as such:
- In 2012, he faced one batter in NLDS Game 1 against the Giants, then left injured. The Reds lost in five games and the Giants went on to win the World Series.
- In 2013, he started the NL Wild Card Game against the PIrates and got chased in the 4th after allowing four runs on eight hits and a pair of homers. It was the only good thing the Pirates have done in the playoffs in the last three years.
Kazmir hasn't pitched in the playoffs since 2009 with the Angels, and in eight career postseason games he has a 5.20 ERA. He reached the World Series with the Rays in 2008 and made a pair of decent starts in the Fall Classic. The last time he faced the Royals, he tossed seven shutout innings on July 24 in his first game as an Astro.
Neither of those track records look terribly impressive, but these are still two top starting pitchers. One or both of them is likely to be good in this game, despite their recent inconsistencies. Meanwhile, notes on some other former A's ...
Ben Zobrist, KCR: 2-for-4 with a stolen base in Game 1.
Chris Carter, HOU: 1-for-4 with 2 strikeouts in Game 1.
Jed Lowrie, HOU: Did not play in Game 1.
Luke Gregerson, HOU: Threw 13 pitches to save the 5-2 victory in Game 1, with 2 Ks and a gift HBP on a ball in the dirt.
Pat Neshek, HOU: Did not pitch in Game 1.
And don't forget that Houston manager A.J. Hinch played for the A's from 1998-2000 after being the team's third-round pick in 1996!
|HOUSTON ASTROS||KANSAS CITY ROYALS|
|Jose Altuve - 2B||Alcides Escobar - SS|
|George Springer - RF||Ben Zobrist - 2B|
|Carlos Correa - SS||Lorenzo Cain - CF|
|Colby Rasmus - LF||Eric Hosmer - 1B|
|Evan Gattis - DH||Kendrys Morales - DH|
|Luis Valbuena - 3B||Mike Moustakas - 3B|
|Chris Carter - 1B||Salvador Perez - C|
|Jason Castro - C||Alex Gordon - LF|
|Jake Marisnick - CF||Alex Rios - RF|
|Scott Kazmir - LHP||Johnny Cueto - RHP|
Personally, I'm rooting for the Blue Jays and the Astros. If the Rangers beat the Jays, then that's also okay because Texas has never won a World Series before and I'll always find joy in a franchise getting its first title. But I want a Toronto/Houston ALCS (and then the Astros can win their first title). Who are you rooting for?