It’s now or never for the Boston Red Sox and the Texas Rangers.

Both teams are down 0-2 in their respective playoff series against the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays, and they must come up with wins Sunday if they are to remain alive in the postseason.

While the Red Sox are at least back at Fenway Park for Game 3 (and Game 4, if necessary), the Rangers are on the road at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.


Texas at Toronto, 7:38 p.m. ET, Toronto leads 2-0

That’s clearly a difficult task for the Rangers, but it’s one that is not impossible to overcome. Just one year ago, these same two teams met in the ALDS, and the Rangers took a 2-0 lead by winning the first two games in Toronto. The Blue Jays went on the road for Games 3 and 4 and won both of those games before returning home for Game 5 and winning that as well.

If the Rangers are going to pay the Blue Jays back, it will start with getting a strong effort from starting pitcher Colby Lewis. The Rangers starters have been hit hard by Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, and that has allowed the Blue Jays to earn early leads and play with confidence.

Lewis, who was 6-5 with a 3.71 earned run average and a 1.126 WHIP, will need to be at his best to keep the Toronto bats in check. 

Aaron Sanchez will be on the mound for the Blue Jays, and he had a sensational 15-2 season with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.167 WHIP. Sanchez was at his best in the regular-season finale when he shut down the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and that helped the Blue Jays earn their spot in the playoffs.

In addition to getting a top effort from Lewis, the Rangers will need the big hitters in their lineup to pick up their production. Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre are the keys to the Texas attack, as those two combined for 65 home runs this season. Neither player has hit a home run in the first two games of the series.

None of their teammates have hit a home run, either. That needs to change in Game 3.


Prediction: The Rangers should be at their best in this elimination game. Look for them to stay close throughout, but Sanchez can be a shutdown pitcher, and he should get the job done here. He will give the Blue Jays eight strong innings, and Toronto sweeps the series with a 2-1 victory.


Cleveland at Boston, 4:08 p.m. ET, Cleveland leads 2-0

Clay Buchholz will get the ball for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon, and that’s quite a turnaround for a pitcher who was dropped from the rotation earlier this year.

However, when he got his second chance from manager John Farrell, Buchholz did a much better job in the final weeks of the season. Buchholz made a mechanical change to his delivery, as he decided to pitch from the stretch throughout the game.

After eliminating his windup, Buchholz became a much more effective pitcher. He was 3-0 in his final four starts with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP. Those numbers represent a significant improvement over his season-long numbers that included an 8-10 record with a 4.78 ERA.

Boston starters Rick Porcello and David Price were hit hard in Games 1 and 2, and the Red Sox need Buchholz to give them six solid innings.

They also need their hitters to pick it up after a disappointing performance in Cleveland. Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. need to start hitting the ball well if the Red Sox are going to resemble the team that led the American League with 878 runs scored.

The Indians were the beneficiaries of clutch hitting and excellent pitching performances by reliever Andrew Miller in Game 1 and starter Corey Kluber in Game 2. They are sending Josh Tomlin to the mound at Fenway Park, and if manager Terry Francona can get five or six innings from him before turning the game over to the Indians bullpen, he should be happy.

Cleveland will look to sluggers Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana for offensive production. Both players hit 34 home runs this season and are capable of big games in Boston.


Prediction: The Indians will not fade away on the road, and they will get at least three runs off of Buchholz. However, the Red Sox offense will come alive, and they will hit Tomlin and the Cleveland pitching staff hard. The Red Sox get back in the series with an 8-4 victory.

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