The waiting is just about over for the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers. The Toronto Blue Jays just want to pick it up from where they left off Tuesday night.

The Blue Jays won their Wild Card Game against the Baltimore Orioles when Edwin Encarnacion launched an Ubaldo Jimenez pitch into the second deck in left field with two runners on in the bottom of the 11th inning at the Rogers Centre, giving the Blue Jays a 5-2 walk-off victory.


Toronto at Texas

The Blue Jays go to Texas Thursday night, where the Rangers will send Cole Hamels to the mound to face Marco Estrada.

These two teams met in last year’s ALDS, and Toronto had the home-field advantage and won the series in five games.

This year, the Rangers have the home-field edge, and they will get to play the fifth game in the best-of-five series in Texas if the series goes that far. The two teams engaged in a memorable confrontation in May when the Rangers’ Rougned Odor punched Toronto’s Jose Bautista.

The Blue Jays would love to get the jump in the series and win Game 1 on the road. For that to happen, they may need to get to Hamels early. The left-handed Hamels had a 15-5 record for the Rangers this year with a 3.32 earned run average.

His WHIP was a vulnerable 1.306, but he struck out 200 batters in 200.2 innings. They need to get to Hamels early because he is their No. 1 pitcher, and his momentum will build the longer he holds the free-swinging Blue Jays in check. However, Hamels was more effective on the road this season, where he recorded a 10-3 record and opposing batters hit .216 off him. 

Hamels was 5-2 at home, and batters were much more successful, hitting .274 off of him.

The Rangers were comfortable playing at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. They were 53-28 at home this year, and they were at their best in close games. Texas had a remarkable 36-11 in one-run games, and that was by far the best record in the majors.

Obviously, manager Jeff Banister would love to see his Rangers get off to a big lead in Game 1 and roll to an easy win, but the Rangers are comfortable in close games. 

Estrada went 9-9 during the regular season with a 3.48 ERA, and he finished even stronger, with only two runs allowed over his final 19 innings pitched, with 19 strikeouts across those three games.

Toronto Key: Get to Hamels early and make the Rangers fight from behind.

Texas Key: Keep the game close and depend on the home-field edge and the ability to win close games.


Boston at Cleveland

Boston won 11 games in a row in September, and that winning streak allowed the Red Sox to gain control of what had been a tight American League East race. They were able to clinch the title with several days to spare.

The Indians have been in control of the American League Central for most of the season. They depended on strong pitching and the clutch hitting of Mike Napoli (34 HR and 101 RBI) and Carlos Santana (34 HR and 87 RBI) to gain control and put away the Detroit Tigers and the 2015 World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

While the Indians had sensational starting pitching at one point this season, they are at a disadvantage as the players get underway. While they have Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in their rotation, Carlos Carrasco (fractured bone in hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm) are both injured and will not be available for manager Terry Francona. 

As a result, Bauer will get the ball in Game 1 for the Indians. He had a respectable 12-8 record, but his 4.26 ERA and 1.311 WHIP means he may be in over his head against a slugging team like the Red Sox.

Boston manager John Farrell will counter with Rick Porcello, who is a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate after going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.009 WHIP.

Porcello did a remarkable job on the road for the Red Sox, going 9-3 and holding batters to a .219 average.

Bauer would seem to have a difficult job in holding a Red Sox lineup that includes Dustin Pedroia (.318 batting average, 201 hits), Mookie Betts (31 HR, 113 RBI, 26 stolen bases), David Ortiz (38, 127 RBI) and Hanley Ramirez (30 HR, 111 RBI) in check.

Boston key: Make Bauer work hard by getting deep in the count and lashing the ball all over Progressive Field.

Cleveland key: Don’t get frustrated if Boston gets off to a lead. Keep attacking Porcello and don’t try to pull every pitch. Get clutch hits from Napoli and Santana. 

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