Game 3 Is Bigger Than You May Think

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Sunday, October 9th, 2016
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Aaron Sanchez can send the Blue Jays to their 2nd straight ALCS.

Aaron Sanchez can send the Blue Jays to their 2nd straight ALCS.

The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays are north of the border and about to play Game 3 in Toronto with a raucous crowd fresh off Thanksgiving dinner. This crowd will be extra loud today because the Blue Jays return to the Rogers Centre up 2-0 in the series against Texas and can knock the Rangers out of the post-season for the 2nd straight season with a win today.

Despite being up 2-0 returning home, one could argue Game 3 is the most crucial of them all in this series given where we sit in this series. As Blue Jays and Rangers fans are both very aware about what happened just a year ago, until that 3rd win is secured, anything can happen. It is October after all. So far, we are having a mirror image of what happened in last years ALDS. Going into Game 3 last season the Rangers were returning home up 2-0 on Toronto with a chance to sweep them. Fast forward to today (October 9th) and Toronto returns home up 2-0 with a chance to sweep Texas.

The major differences between this year’s 2-0 lead is that the games haven’t been close at all. Game 1 in 2015 saw Texas win 5-3 and 6-4 in Game 2. This year it was a blowout 10-1 win followed by a 5-3 Blue Jays win in Game 2. The Blue Jays have out-pitched, out-hit, and defended better than Texas through the first two games. It was much more even last year.

As I alluded too earlier, both teams are well aware of what happened last season. That being said, Game 3 is easily the most crucial game of this series. That seems like an easy conclusion to draw too considering the Blue Jays can sweep tonight. Of course, it’s always big when you can end a series but the Blue Jays do not want to wake up the Rangers offense but the pitching matchups after tonight can quickly turn the series around for Texas.

Tonight see’s Colby Lewis for Texas agains one of the Blue Jays 3 aces in Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez has been the teams best starter this season and many did not think they would be seeing Sanchez on the mound in the 1st inning in October. Everyone assumed that if they were to see Sanchez in October, it would be in the 7th 0r 8th innings. Instead, Sanchez is tasked tonight with sending the Blue Jays to the ALCS for a second straight season. The pitching matchup clearly favours Toronto.

Colby Lewis has had a plethora of playoff experience with Texas. For his career, Lewis has made 9 appearances with 8 of them being starts. He has posted a 2.38 ERA in those outings. One could say he rises to the occasion in October but does he really? He may just be extremely lucky. His FIP is 4.66 and his xFIP is 4.54. Both numbers are over 2.00 runs higher than his ERA which suggests he flirts with danger and is not as good as those numbers suggest. His BB/9 also rises from a career mark of 2.79 in the regular season to 4.25. What else has contributed to his playoff success? A BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .200. That’s insanely lucky. That’s also led to a LOB of 88.4%. One would assume Lewis cracks eventually, right?

Lewis, according to Brooks Baseball is the owner of one of the leagues most hittable fastball. It is below hitter speed (88 MPH average fastball) and it is STRAIGHT. It has no extra movement. Advantage Blue Jays who feast on fastballs. When Lewis returned from the DL in September, batters hit .300 against his fastball with an .850 SLG% and .550 ISO. Insanely ineffective fastball is featured from Colby Lewis.

Aaron Sanchez has had a remarkable season. He was worth a shade under 4.0 wins (3.9) and led the AL in ERA with an even 3.00 mark. This will be Sanchez’s first start in the post-season but he has pitched out of the bullpen in the playoffs where he did not allow an earned run.

Sanchez’s best pitch is his fastball and he loves to throw it as evidenced by his 74.3% usage. I told you all about Colby Lewis’ fastball. How about Sanchez? In September batters hit just .059 against it with .059 SLG and .000 ISO. Now, keep in mind that’s Sanchez’s 4 seam. His sinker is his primary fastball. The sinker was hit at a .235 clip and .431 SLG. Needless to say, the ISO off it wasn’t very good. Sanchez can dominate a game throwing his fastball and sinker.

The matchup heavily favours the Blue Jays and they need to take advantage of it because 1 Texas win could change things rather quickly. Cole Hamels despite being destroyed on Thursday would likely start Monday on short rest as he only threw 90 pitches. Even though Hamels was roughed up, he’s still Cole Hamels and he still has an incredible playoff pedigree. I’d bet my money on Hamels not posting a second straight dud of a start which could potentially send the series back to Texas for a Yu Darvish start on regular rest.

What I’m trying to say is, just end the series tonight. Do not give Texas another breath. Both Hamels and Darvish usually do not throw two duds in a row. The Blue Jays have a golden opportunity to hit the leagues most hittable fastball courtesy of Colby Lewis and ride their best starter in Aaron Sanchez to their second straight ALCS against either the Cleveland Indians or Boston Red Sox. Win today, Toronto.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors

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