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Happy Game 5 Day, as both American League Division Series are now in their deciding contest. The Blue Jays and Rangers will face off in Toronto at 4 p.m ET, while the Astros and Royals will finish their series in Kansas City at 8 p.m. There are a combined 158 seasons of World Series championship drought among these four teams, with neither the Astros nor Rangers ever even winning the whole thing -- the Cubs aren't the only suffering fan base around here, you know. There is more than enough of that to go around, especially now that the Cardinals have been eliminated.
The Jays have been on the brink of elimination since Sunday, but have won the series' two games in Texas to force a return to Canada, where Marcus Stroman will take the mound. This has the potential to be an amazing moment, as Stroman was supposed to lead this staff in the regular season, until a freak knee injury suffered during bunt drills in spring training nearly ended it for him entirely. Stroman worked his way back, though, helping lead the Jays to the AL East crown in September starts, and now he's taking the mound for the most significant game in the franchise's history since Joe Carter touched them all. Of course, if the Jays don't come away victorious, there will be questions as to why it wasn't deadline-acquisition and Cy Young candidate David Price making this pivotal start -- especially with the Rangers turning to their own ace in Cole Hamels to keep the season alive.
Out in KC, it's Collin McHugh vs. the Royals' major July acquisition, Johnny Cueto. McHugh had a rough first half of 2015, but looked much more like the promising arm of last summer after the All-Star break, and already held the Royals to two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the series. Cueto had the opposite season, falling apart almost entirely during his run with Kansas City, with the Royals winning in spite of his Game 2 performance. It's no use predicting winners at this point, though: anything can happen in a single baseball game, and what happens in Wednesday's will determine who is going home whether it was fair, fluky, or expected.
- The Cubs used youth and dingers to defeat their rivals, the Cardinals, to move on to the NLCS. It's only the second playoff series the Cubs have won since they moved into Wrigley Field back in 1916. You could say they needed this one.
- It wasn't all Cubs in that Game 4, though: Stephen Piscotty put two on the board for St. Louis and obliterated a fan's beer in the process.
- Kyle Schwarber hit a big ole dinger that served as the series' dagger.
- The Royals staged an incredible comeback in Game 4 to force this Game 5, and since the Astros' bullpen hasn't improved any since Monday, even if Cueto struggles, Kansas City will still have a chance.
- The Red Sox have a bunch of prospects and a President of Baseball Operations who loves to make trades. Which of those kids will be the centerpiece of Boston's next major deal?
- The Yankees have reasons to head back into free agency this winter, even with all the major contracts they already have around.
- The Angels are already seeing some personnel changes under new GM Billy Eppler.
- The Astros aren't starting their ace, Dallas Keuchel, in Game 5, but that might be the right thing to do given his workload and that it would be on short rest. Plus, if they win, there is that whole ALCS to worry about, and it's not like McHugh is a nobody.
- The Dodgers forced a Game 5 with the Mets, with more than a little help from Clayton Kershaw. OK, never mind, maybe pitching on short rest is okay when your season is on the line.
- The video review that called Terrance Gore out on Monday has some feeling that the whole system needs work.
- Russell Carlton asks if baseball still needs divisions.
- Kershaw was great, but there is yet another marquee pitching match-up awaiting us in Game 5, when Zack Greinke takes on Jacob deGrom. You'll have to wait until Thursday for that one, though.