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Playoff Gameday Thread, #3: The ALDS begins

With the sudden death drama of the wild-card games out of the way, we settle in for the long haul of the post-season, starting with the American League Division Series, which get under way today.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Collin McHugh
RHP, 19-7, 3.89
Yordano Ventura
RHP, 13-8, 4.08
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

With the Rangers having knocked off the Blue Jays 5-3 in the opening game of their Division Series, it's up to the Astros to see if they can continue the streak of successful road teams, with the visitors now having won all three of the 2015 post-season games thus far. While we won't get to see ace Dallas Keuchel for a couple more games, McHugh is certainly not chopped liver, having had a breakout season this year - and is perhaps a poster-boy for the value of advanced analytics, Houston having picked McHugh up due to the spin-rate on his curveball. Said Astros GM David Stearns, “We identified him as someone whose surface statistics might not indicate his true value."

Certainly from what we've seen lately, the narrative of the Astros not being able to win on the road seems more than a little wobbly, but Kansas City's home record of 51-30 is little worse than Houston's, and Kauffman Stadium is bound to be jumping as the reigning American League champions look to defend that title. Since 2001, the Texas Rangers in 2010-11 are the only side who have been able to repeat as AL pennant winners, and while the Royals did have the best record in the league this year, they still seem to have slid somewhat under the radar. As mentioned below, getting the first win in a best of five series is essential, but I'm going with the Astros to win this one and keep the road mojo going.

Yovani Gallardo
RHP, 13-11, 3.42
David Price
LHP, 18-5, 2.45
Delino DeShields Jr. - CF Ben Revere - LF
Shin-Soo Choo - RF Josh Donaldson - 3B
Adrian Beltre - 3B Jose Bautista - RF
Prince Fielder - DH Edwin Encarnacion - DH
Mike Napoli - 1B Troy Tulowitzki - SS
Josh Hamilton - LF Justin Smoak - 1B
Elvis Andrus - SS Russell Martin - C
Rougned Odor - 2B Ryan Goins - 2B
Robinson Chirinos - C Kevin Pillar - CF

This is the first time the Blue Jays have appeared in the playoffs for 22 years, the last time being in the 1993 World Series. Think they are ready for this? Conventional wisdom has them slugging their way to the American League East, and of course, there is truth to that, with the Blue Jays having scored 891 runs, far and away the most in the AL [the runner-up Yankees were closer to the 14th-placed Rays than they were to the Blue Jays!] But their team ERA of 3.80 was good enough for fifth place, and the mid-season acquisition of David Price pushed them over the top, Price going 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11starts since coming from Detroit at the deadline.

Texas, meanwhile, will be seeking their first post-season victory since the 2011 World Series, having completed a last-to-first run in the American League West, which seemed unlikely when they entered September four games back of the Astros. They finished strong, going 18-10 in both August and September, and actually played better on the road than in Arlington. However, the Blue Jays had the edge during the regular season match-ups, winning four of six as they took both series. Especially in short series like this, winning the first game is crucial, and I think two decades of absence will give the Blue Jays enough motivation to prevail.