2015 NLDS Game #4: St Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Preview

MLB Preview and Free Pick: Cardinals vs Nationals

The casual baseball fan might find the facts for today’s National League Division Series at Wrigley Field surprising. The biggest surprise being that the Chicago Cubs are in a position to clinch their first postseason series victory in 12 years with a win today at home in Wrigley, or on Thursday with a win at Busch Stadium. The Chicago northsiders host the St. Louis Cardinals in Game #4 of the NLDS coming off a big Game #3 playoff-record six homers on Monday while recording a 8-6 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five matchup.

The Cardinals were the favorites tow in the 2015 World Series just a few short weeks ago as they owned the best record in baseball and ultimately closed the regular season with a Major League best 100 wins. Chicago took the series lead on Monday after running St Louis right-hander Michael Wacha from the mound after scoring four runs in just over four innings.

The Cubs, behind two-run homers from Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler and solo shots from Starlin Castro, Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber, scored eight runs in Monday’s triumph. “We took care of Monday,” Rizzo told the Chicago Tribune. “We’ll show up Tuesday and bring energy and see what we do. We’ll be ready to go.”

The final game at Wrigley Field for this National League Division series between the Cardinals and the Cubs will pit Lackey (1-0, 0.00 ERA) against Chicago right-hander Jason Hammel (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Gameday Vitals
St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs (-125, 8)
Time: 4:30 PM ET, Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Venue: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
Weather: Partly cloudy with little to no chance of rain and first pitch temperatures in the sixties. A 10-to-15 m.p.h. breeze will blow from left-to-right field.

Cardinals
The team that oddsmakers perceived most likely to be crowned 2015 Major League Baseball World Champs now face elimination, so ‘Birds manager Mike Matheny announced a change in his playoff rotation after Monday’s loss. The St Louis coaching staff will start Game 1 winner John Lackey but they also announced on Tuesday morning that the team would not be starting All Star catcher Yadier Molina.

Molina has officially been ruled out of the starting lineup for this Game 4 of the NL Division Series because of weakness in his left thumb. The Cardinals catcher was injured on a swing-and-miss in the fourth inning of Monday night’s 8-6 loss to the Cubs and was eventually removed from the lineup on Monday for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning. Molina missed the last part of the regular season due to a strained ligament in his thumb. He is 1 for 8 with two strikeouts in the series.

Backup catcher Tony Cruz is expected to start and catch Lackey Cardinals in today’s Game #4.   St Louis pitcher Lance Lynn originally was slated to be today’s Game 4 starter, but the change was made after the Cubs destroyed the Cards starter and bullpen on Monday night. Lackey went 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA in three regular-season starts against the Cubs and shut the Cubbies lineup down completely in the Cards Game #1 win.

Cubs
The Cubs will be without Shortstop Addison Russell, who is out of the lineup after he left Game 3 with tightness in his left hamstring, and utility man Javier Baez is expected to get the starting job at shortstop for the Cubs today.

Hammel was able to register a career high in wins this season but he has been anything but effective since the All Star break. Hammel registered a 5.10 ERA after the mid-summer break despite winning five of eight decisions. The Cubs right-hander was 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season. Hammel is also winless in three previous career postseason trips to the mound.

Outlook
The Cardinals have not won (0-4) any of their last four road tests and are 0-5 in their last 5 playoff tilts as a visitor. The team has been good winning eight of their last 10 games when Lackey started, this against an opponent with a winning record on the season.

The Cubs are 40-13 in their last 53 games when their opponent sends a right-handed starter to the mound and 48-19 in their last 67 overall contests.

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The road to the World Series title continues today with two big Tuesday Division Series tilts. The WagerTalk team continues their coverage of Major League Baseball until the final out of the World Series.

Read more2015 NLDS Game #4: St Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Preview

Updated World Series Odds from Vegas

Vegas SuperBook 2019 World Series Odds and Props

Updated World Series Odds after Monday Night via the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

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2015 World Series Odds

Los Angeles Dodgers 9-1
St. Louis Cardinals 12-1
Kansas City Royals 9-2
Texas Rangers 10-1
Toronto Blue Jays 3-1
New York Mets 9-2
Chicago Cubs 7-2
Houston Astros 12-1

2015 NATIONAL LEAGUE PENNANT Odds

Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1
St. Louis Cardinals 9-2
New York Mets 2-1
Chicago Cubs 3-2

2015 AMERICAN LEAGUE PENNANT Odds

Kansas City Royals 2-1
Texas Rangers 9-2
Toronto Blue Jays 13-10
Houston Astros 5-1

*ALL BETS ARE ACTION DESPITE RELOCATION AND/OR NAME CHANGES

TONY FINN’S CITI FIELD 4% GRAND SLAM

Read moreUpdated World Series Odds from Vegas

2015 ALDS Game #4: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers Preview

2015 ALDS Game #4: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers Preview at WagerTalk

Toronto manager John Gibbons is sending veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for today’s Game #4 American League Division Series start against Texas left-hander Derek Holland at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas on Monday. The fourth test of the best-of-five series is scheduled to see first pitch at 4:00 pm EST.

While Dickey is Gibbon’s first to take the hill today on Globe Life field it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either of the Game #1 and #2 starters, David Price or Marcus Strohman take a turn, if the situation calls for it.

Blue Jays skipper Gibbons told the Canadian Press on Sunday afternoon, “If things go as planned, we have a good ball game (Sunday), win, you can expect to see Dickey out there, but we also could have Price coming out of the bullpen. You could have anyone coming out of the bullpen because you have to win.”

It is safe to assume that like any sudden-death situation for a Major League Baseball manager, and team, anything is possible with nothing to lose and a Game #5 to gain.

Gameday Vitals
Toronto Blue Jays (-130, 9.5) at Texas Rangers
Time: 4:00 PM ET, Monday, October 12, 2015
Venue: Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, Texas
Weather: Clear and hot with first pitch temperatures expected to be in the mid-nineties an light winds blowing at 5-10 mph out to leftfield.

Blue Jays
Dickey, how once donned a Texas Rangers uniform, recorded his 100th career win, in his 100th start as a Blue Jay. The right-handed veteran started 33 games for Gibbons this season working over 214 innings in the process. After a sluggish April and May the former Ranger recorded 20 quality starts this season which tied him for eighth in the American League.  Dickey dropped just one of his last 14 starts with a stellar 2.88 earned-run average and .230 batting average against closing out the 2015 campaign with an 8-2 record in his last 16 turns.

Mid-season acquisition from Colorado, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, entered the ALDS Game #3 without a hit, in an 0-for-10 slump, but answered the bell by hitting a three-run homer as the Blue Jays kept survived for today’s Game #4 with a 5-1 victory over the Rangers in Arlington.

Rangers
Texas sends southpaw Holland to the hill today for a start against an offense that was the best in 2015 against left-handed pitching.  Holland struggled in the final two months of the season has entered today’s contest with a 7.62 ERA over his last five outings.  Texas manager Jeff Bannister made the decision to go with Holland over veteran right-hander Colby Lewis, a 17 game winner for the Rangers this season.

Texas will also be without former All Star and potential Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre (back) who has been ruled out to start for a third straight game.  Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (1-for-13) and Fielder (1-for-12) did not contribute in the teams two wins in this best-of-five series. The two veterans are hitting a combined .080 in the first three games.

Outlook
Toronto puts their ALDS future between the chalk lines today betting on knuckleballer Dickey’s right-arm.  Dickey closed the final two months of the season with solid number, however, he was just 2-8 with a 4.38 ERA overall in 16 starts on the road this season

The Blue Jays easily had the best offensive numbers in all of baseball this year against left-handed pitching. They hit .278 as a team with a Major League Baseball best .818 OPS.

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Read more2015 ALDS Game #4: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers Preview

2015 ALDS Game #4: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Preview

2015 ALDS Game #4: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Preview at WagerTalk

The Houston Astros are one win away from being a part of the American League Championship Series when they host the Kansas City Royals on Monday at high noon in Game #4 of the of the Division Series. The Astros took a  2-1 lead in the best-of-five ALDS after securing a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon.

Houston ace Dallas Keuchel remained perfect when pitching in Minutes Maid Park this season pitching seven strong innings putting his club in position to earn a third series clinching win today when teammate Lance McCullers (2015: 6-7, 3.22) squares off against Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura (0-1, 13.50 ERA).

Gameday Vitals
Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros (-130, 7.5)
Time: 1:00 PM ET, Monday, October 12, 2015
Venue: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
Weather: Partly cloudy and warm with first pitch temperatures expected in the eighties with a light breeze blowing from the south.

Royals
The Royals’ two most prominent sluggers, Mike Moustakas (1-for-10) and Eric Hosmar (1-for-12) will have to be more effective in Monday’s high-noon event if they want to assist Ventura and the club in returning back to Kaufman Stadium for a deciding Game #5 contest.

Game #1 of the ALDS saw Royals’ starter Ventura limited to two innings due to a rain delay. Kansas City skipper Ned Yost decided after a one-hour delay that his right-handed fireballer would not return to the contest instead being fresh for today’s Game #4 road tilt in Houston. Yordano surrendered three runs and four hits while throwing 42 pitches in his limited work.

“Obviously, it’s a different situation, but my routine is going to remain the same,” Ventura told the media during Sunday’s press conference. “I’ve got a good defense behind me, and I’m ready to go for (Monday).

The Royals led the league in runs batted in with two outs this season but this has not been the offenses’ modus operandi during this series against Houston. Kansas City left 10 runners on base for the game.

Astros
Houston is fulfilling a dream for themselves and their fans, much like Kansas City did a year ago, heading into today’s afternoon tilt just nine innings away from their first League Championship Series since 2005. The Astros look to close out the series today in Game #4  with first pitch set for 1 p.m. EST.

Astros Sunday starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel,  went seven innings, allowing one earned run on five hits and striking out seven.  Today’s starter for Houston, McCullers,  started 22 games during the regular season but is making his first postseason appearance.

The game is without question Lance McCullers biggest challenge in his young career. The 22-year-old was 6-7 with a 3.22 earned run average in this, 2015, his rookie season. The young right-hander has allowed three or more earned runs in four of his last nine starts compared to just three turns in his first 13 trips to the mound this season.

Outlook
The Astros have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series and are depending on a rookie to seal the ALDS deal. The Royals, who are no stranger to do-or-die games and sudden-death contest situations are aiming to reach the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.

Save the drama that riddled the gridiron and their stadiums on Week #5 Sunday in the National Football League there will be fewer pressure filled scenarios in October than what Major League Baseball is presenting in today’s Game #4 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.

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Read more2015 ALDS Game #4: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Preview

2015 NLDS: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers Preview

2015 NLDS: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers Preview at WagerTalk

It isn’t a surprise that both the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers were the two teams that were involved in more no-hitters in the 2015 season than any other Major League Baseball Club.  However, the surprise is that the two teams where the victims of no-hitters, twice, rather than tossing the gems.

Those teams square off in final Game #1 of the Divisional Series tonight in Los Angeles when the Dodgers host the Mets.  The Dodgers, arguably, feature the two best starting pitchers in baseball; Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke.  The Dodgers sport the largest payroll in the major leagues but outside of Kershaw and Grienke their team neon-light positional stars are not household names.

Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw (16-7, 2.13 ERA) takes the hill for Game #1 of the National League Divisional Series against New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54) at Dodger Stadium in warm California tonight.

Gameday Vitals
National League Division Series: Game #1
New York Mets (0-0) at Los Angeles Dodgers (0-0) best-of-five series
Time: 9:30 PM ET, Friday, October 9, 2015
Venue: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Weather:  Clear and hot with zero chance of precipitation. First pitch temperatures are expected in the low-nineties with a slight breeze blowing out to center field.

Mets
The 2015 New York Mets season is the franchise’s 54th campaign. New York’s other baseball team surprisingly won the National League East title, their first since 2006, and sixth overall in franchise history.  New York finished the season with a record of 90-72.  Manager Terry Collins has several options when setting a lineup for Game #1 versus Cy Young winner, Kershaw, but has yet to share that information with the New York or national media. Collins could go with up to four left-handed hitters against Kershaw and two are certain parts of the lineup card tonight, with Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda.

Granderson and Duda are a combined 2-for-20 in their careers when facing Kershaw and overall Granderson hit a pedestrian .183 against southpaws this season.

DeGrom was somewhat inconsistent in the final two months of the season but his last two starts offered hope for Mets fans in Game #1 versus Kershaw. The Mets right-hander allowed but one run in 10 innings over his final two starts in the regular season, including four no-hit innings against Washington in his final tune-up. The New York All-Star has complete control of his arsenal and evidence of such is offered in his strikeout to walk ratio. DeGrom struck out 205 and walked just 38 in 191 innings this season.

Dodgers
If the Mets have any aspirations of advancing to the National League Championship Series they need to find a way to rattle Kershaw tonight in Game #1. That, however, is easier said than done. Kershaw registered the first 300 strikeout season since Randy Johnson in 2002 and he is only the second Dodger starting pitcher to strikeout more than 300 batters in a single season. The other starter was also a southpaw.

His name?

Sandy Koufax

Zack Grienke is the other guy. But in this case the “other guy,” might be “the guy.”

In spite of all of Kershaw’s gaudy regular season success, he’s been a disappointment in October. He’s made 11 appearances, started eight games and he’s 1-5 with an ERA of 5.12.

Grienke just happens to be the best, second-best, pitcher on any MLB staff. The right-handed Cy Young winner completed one of the best regular seasons in recent memory. He went 19-3 with an ERA of 1.66.  Another big advantage for the Dodgers is the experience that Grienke has with playoff baseball. The LA righty has started seven playoff games and his record is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.63.

Schedule of events for the NLDS at Dodger Stadium and Citi Field:
Game 1: Friday in Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 2: Saturday in Los Angeles, 9:00 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 3: Monday in New York, Time TBA (TBS)
Game 4*: Tuesday in New York, 8:00 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 5*: Thursday in Los Angeles, 8:00 p.m. ET (TBS)
* if necessary

Outlook
The Mets took the season series 4-3 and it is noteworthy for this preview to mention that none of those games were played after New York acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline.  Kershaw and Grienke were responsible for two of the three losses that the Mets suffered at the hands of the Dodgers this season.

Neither of these two teams are going to knock the leather off the baseball. The Mets batted an NL worst .155 this season against left-handers that threw an overhand curve ball at least 30 percent of the time with the league average coming in at a .212 average.

Kershaw has heard his name whispered as a postseason goat, year after year, radio talk show after radio talk show, on the Los Angeles airwaves. The Dodgers left-hander has a porous 1-5 record and 5.12 ERA in 11 career playoff appearances (including three relief appearances in 2008 and 2009). His latest number in a playoff atmosphere have seen his Dodger lose all four, and in sour fashion, with two of those coming in elimination games for the Boys in Blue.  Kershaw has a 7.15 ERA in those games.

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Read more2015 NLDS: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers Preview

2015 NLDS: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Preview

Vegas SuperBook 2019 World Series Odds and Props

With the possibility of alarming the baseball gods and Major League Baseball traditionalists from the northeastern neighborhoods: is the Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals regional rivalry the new version of the old; be it the battle of who is best between the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees? The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are long-time hated division foes, but until recently, seemingly for 107 years, mind you, only in the regular season.

Would you be surprised to find out that this National League Division Series that begins today at Busch Stadium is an organizational first for both clubs?: Today’s Game #1 of this NLDS playoff matchup is the first-ever postseason meeting between the two franchises.

The Cardinals won 100 games this season, the most in baseball and the Cubs finished with the third best record in all of baseball, closing the 2015 regular season with a 97-65 record.  Are these the two best teams, overall, in Major League Baseball entering the Road to the Fall Classic title?

Considering that post-All-Star break, the Cubs were 50-25, which was the best record in the National League by four-and-a-half games, essentially tied with the Blue Jays, for the best winning percentage in all of baseball.  Additionally, looking at the post-trade deadline, the Cubs were 42-18, which was the best record in baseball and alarmingly, to Redbird fans, seven-and-a-half games better than St. Louis over that time span.

Chicago lefty Jon Lester faces a former teammate, St. Louis right-hander, John Lackey. in Game #1 of the NLDS at Busch Stadium today.

Gameday Vitals
National League Division Series: Game #1
Chicago Cubs (0-0) at Saint Louis Cardinals (0-0) best-of-five series
Time: 6:30 PM ET, Friday, October 9, 2015
Venue: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
Weather: Partly cloudy with a 25 percent chance of rain. First pitch temperatures in the mid-sixties with a slight breeze blowing in from left-field.

Cubs
The Cubs went from losing 89 games in 2014 to winning 97 in the 2015 campaign.  The loyal band of brothers from the north side of Chicago had not had a winning record since 2009, the Wrigley family and their national fan base had not been to the playoffs since 2008 and had not experienced the joy of winning a playoff game since 2003. These depressing facts for Cubs fans is only trumped by the reality that the franchise had not won the pennant since 1945 or a World Series since 1908.

However, Friday’s starting pitcher, Jon Lester, wasn’t shy when offering his assessment and NLDS preview between the two NL Central rivals.

“We’ve got to beat the best team in baseball and we’ve got to go from there, so we’ll see,” Lester said in the postgame press conference at PNC Park in Pittsburgh Wednesday night, after the Cubs beat the Pirates, 4-0, behind ace Jake Arrieta in the wild-card contest.

Lester (11-12, 3.34 ERA) was strong in the final two months of the regular season limiting opponents to two or fewer earned runs in five of his final six September and October starts.  His only non-quality effort game against these very Cardinals in last September when he allowed four runs in six innings in the loss. However, just 11 days earlier at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Lester was in the Cubs victory surrendering just one run on two hits over seven innings of work.

Cardinals
The Cardinals’ 2014–15 offseason began in tragic fashion. St Louis rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras was killed in a traffic collision on October 26. In the shadow of that event the St Louis front office brightened the dark period by acquired right fielder Jason Heyward and pitcher Jordan Walden from the Atlanta Braves for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, this less than a month later on November 17.

The Cardinals held first place in the NL Central division longer than any other division winner this season. The ‘Birds won 22 of their first 29 games of the season securing the organizations best start since 1887.

The Redbirds selected veteran John  Lackey (13-10, 2.77) to take the mound for the first game of this heated rivalry. Lackey is no stranger to the pressure of playoff baseball and it is likely the reason he was “The Chosen” for this matchup against grizzled, brother, Jon Lester. Lackey has appeared in two World Series during his career,  with the 2002 Angels and 2013 Red Sox.  The now St Louis right-hander allowed a total of seven runs in his final five regular-season starts this season with a solid 9-4 record and a 1.93 ERA at Busch Stadium.  Lackey held the Cubs lineup to a total of three earned runs over nearly 15 innings of Busch work this summer.

Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field schedule of events:
Date Time (ET) Site Starting Pitchers
Fri, Oct. 9 6:30pm – Busch Stadium – Jon Lester vs. John Lackey
Sat, Oct. 10 5:30pm – Busch Stadium – Kyle Hendricks vs. Jaime Garcia
Mon, Oct. 12 TBD – Wrigley Field – Michael Wacha vs. Jake Arrieta
Tues, Oct. 13* TBD – Wrigley Field – Lance Lynn vs. TBD
Thurs, Oct. 15* TBD – Busch Stadium – Lester vs. Lackey

Outlook
The Cardinals posted 100 victories and are one of only two teams that finished with more wins than Chicago’s  97 in the regular season. Lester and Lackey have impressive postseason pedigrees.

Lester is 6-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 playoff games (12 starts) while Lackey is 7-5 with a 3.08 ERA in 21 career postseason games – 18 starts.

The live line board at WagerTalk.com lists the Cardinals as minus-110 favorites in this Friday twilight matchup with an over/under of six-and-a-half runs.

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Read more2015 NLDS: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Preview

2015 ALDS Game #2: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Preview

Daily MLB Trends for Monday, September 12: Yanks, Jays, Orioles and Red Sox battle

While the two Major League Baseball Wild Card games ended in shutouts, the American League Division Series between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays was never expected to be pitcher driven. Both clubs rank as two of the top offenses in all of baseball and the first in the best-of-five series between the two division winners went to the Rangers in a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Adrian Beltre all left Game #1 before the final out with minor injuries.  The Texas third baseman, Beltre, will not start in Game #2 due to a back ailment.  Beltre, left the game, according to reports, after injuring his back in a third inning at-bat. According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Beltre’s MRI showed no structural damage and while the Rangers coaching staff called him day-to-day, he has been ruled out of the starting lineup for the Friday, October 9th, Game #2 test.

“Obviously we want Adrian in there,” manager Jeff Banister told the Dallas Morning News. “He’s the heart and soul of this ballclub.”

The Friday Game #2 scheduled starters are left-hander Cole Hamels for the Rangers and right-hander Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays.

Gameday Vitals
American League Division Series: Game #2
Texas Rangers (1-0) at Toronto (0-1) best-of-five series
Time: 12:30 PM ET, Friday, October 9, 2015
Venue: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Weather: The Rogers Centre Dome was closed for Game #1 and is expected to be as well in this Game #2 of the best-of-five ALDS series

Rangers
Veteran Yovani Gallardo, in his first season with Texas, got the victory he and his teammates wanted in Game #1 against the Jays. Southpaw Hamels (13-8, 3.65 ERA), also in his first year with the Rangers, after being part of a trade deadline deal this summer, is 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 career postseason starts. The lefty went 7-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 12 outings for Texas this summer. Arguably the Rangers best addition to the team, be it off-season or mid-season, won the final 10 regular-season games that Hamels started.

Gallardo, the Rangers right-hander, held the Blue Jays to four hits and two runs over five innings and remained perfect against Toronto with the win. The former Milwaukee Brewer has been victorious in all four of his career starts against the Blue Jays.

Blue Jays
Toronto’s Game #1 starter, David Price, got his typical result when starting in the postseason. In the Blue Jays’ first postseason game since Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run,  in 1993, Price was fortunate to work a full seven innings after allowing all five of the Rangers’ runs in Thursday’s ALDS loss.

The Blue Jays give the ball to young Stroman (4-0, 1.67) in an attempt to event the series at one-game-a-piece in Game #2. Stroman pitched in four games this season after returning from a torn left knee ligament, winning all four starts, finishing the 2015 regular season with a 1.67 ERA.

After suffering the loss on Thursday, and now down 0-1 in the best-of-five series, Toronto must find a way to keep their young right-hander, Stroman, confident and in form against a good hitting Texas lineup.  Additionally,  there are concerns in the Jays locker-room about whether sluggers Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista will be able to take the field in the first inning of Game #2.  The Blue Jays’ coaching staff reported on Friday morning that both of their All Stars would play today, they are certainly less than 100 percent after exiting with head and leg injuries, respectively.

Outlook
Both teams suffered injuries to their All Star third basemen in Game #1.  Texas standout Adrian Beltre has been ruled out with a back injury and might be replaced on the roster, while the Jays’ MVP candidate Josh Donaldson is questionable with head trauma, it was reported that he passed the concussion protocol test after leaving the Thursday Game #1 tilt.

The Blue Jays were, statistically, the best offense in all of baseball against left-handed pitching. Rangers southpaw Hamels has struggled against the Blue Jays, posting an 0-2 record and 6.97 ERA in four career starts.

Stroman, who suffered an ACL tear in his left knee in March but returned in September and won all four of his outings and has shown no signs of being overwhelmed by his responsibility today in “Ole SkyDome.”

“I pitch with a lot of hate and anger and emotion in my heart – it’s just something that I’ve always kind of built myself on,” Stroman said in Major League Baseball’s post-games press conference. “I’m just excited. I can’t wait to get out there. I wish I could put it in words.”

The Blue Jays opened as minus-180 favorites in Friday’s early pitch Game #2 contest behind Stroman with the oddsmakers, according to WagerTalk’s live odds board, setting the over/under at eight runs.

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Read more2015 ALDS Game #2: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Preview

2015 ALDS: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals Preview

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The Astros’ 3-0 victory at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night in the American League Wild-Card game put a stake in the heart of the fans of the Bronx Bombers around the world and dampened the spirits of the Fox Sports powers-that-be. It is safe to convey that the television ratings would have been much more bottom-line friendly had the New York Yankees prevailed over the Houston Astros in the one-and-done contest to determine the final member of the AL Final Four.

After fighting and clawing to be a part of the 2014 World Series a year ago, earning their way to the Fall Classic via a wild card berth, the Kansas City Royals road to the American League Division Series was much more relaxed this 2015 campaign. Kansas City dominated the American League Central Division, winning 95 games during the 162-game regular season finishing 12 games ahead of the second-place, and surprising, Minnesota Twins.

The Astros entered the final full month, September, of the Major League Baseball 162-game regular season,  as the favorites to win the AL West Division. Not only did the Astros lose their division lead to the ultimate West champs, the Texas Rangers, it took nearly every inning of the full season for Houston to secure the final wild card berth.

Game#1 of this ALDS features Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura (3.58 xFIP) against the consistent Collin McHugh (3.90 xFIP) for Houston.

Gameday Vitals
Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals (-130, 7.5)
Time: 7:30 PM ET, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Venue: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Weather: Partly cloudy with an unseasonably warm 70 degree October temperature expected at first pitch. A  5-to-10 mph wind will be blowing out to right field with a slight chance of scattered showers possible throughout the Kansas City, Missouri, evening.

Astros
You will hear how similar these two teams are built, the Royals and the Astros, but nothing could be further from the truth. Houston wants to hit the long ball, and played in a home park that was conducive to their style and scheme. The Royals pitch, play defense and manufacture runs with a top tiered bullpen that is famous for holding late inning leads.

This Astros lineup not only strikes out, a lot, their 1,280 punch outs ranked second in all of baseball, and their style of play doesn’t necessarily fit the expansive fence lines of Kauffman Stadium.

McHugh closed the season strong winning his last six turns on the hill and was successful in his lone career test against the Royals. The Houston right-hander threw seven innings of five-hit shutout ball during the 2014 campaign

Royals
The Kansas City Royals begin their defense of the 2014  American League pennant tonight and do so against a club, like they were a year ago, that was, is, a surprise addition to the league’s Final Four.  Kansas City took the wild-card route to the World Series a year ago and now Houston is looking to match that accomplishment after earning the right-to-fight after knocking out the New York Yankees in Tuesday’s wild-card contest.

Ventura has won 27 games over the past two seasons and is, unquestionably, offers the most upside in a one game scenario. While the ALDS is a best-of-seven event, the Royals want to protect their home turf by winning game one and turning their fate over to veterans Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.

“Ventura has been excellent in his last six, seven starts,” Yost told the Kansas City Star. “And we wanted to keep everybody on five days’ rest. We thought that would work out best for us.”

Ventura is a promising offering in tonight matchup against McHugh and the Astros. He has the most upside as young arm that can create swing and misses in the K-zone against a batting order that has the highest ratio of swing-and-misses in the strike zone of any team in the American League. The Kansas City right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three career starts against Houston and earned a victory the last time he face the Astros lineup on July 26 when he allowed one run and six hits in seven innings of work.

The schedule of events for the Kamas City vs. Houston ALDS affair (all times Eastern Time):

Game 1: Thursday, Oct. 8 at Kansas City, 7:37 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 9 at Kansas City, 3:45 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 11 at Houston, 4:10 p.m. (MLB Network)
Game 4: Monday, Oct. 12 at Houston, TBD (Fox Sports 1)*
Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 14 at Kansas City, TBD (Fox Sports 1)*
*if necessary*

Outlook
The Astros lost an average of 104 games over a four-year span before putting together this 2015 surprise campaign while the Royals were expected back in the postseason mix.

Both of these team’s offensive make-up and pitching staffs are capable of putting together a run of success. The difference in this series will likely come down to how well the young group of Houston players hold up in the first two games at Kaufman Stadium and whether they are still hungry and determined, or satisfied with their already uber success in the 2015 season.

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Read more2015 ALDS: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals Preview