The Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers meet in the 2016 American League Division Series beginning on Thursday in Arlington, in a rematch of one of the most thrilling playoff series of last year.
Game 1 is the first of two AL playoff games on Thursday, with the 4:38 p.m. ET contest to be televised by TBS.
In 2015, the Blue Jays outlasted the Rangers in five games, culminating in Jose Bautista’s bat flip heard around the world after his three-run home run in the seventh inning of the deciding game in Toronto gave the Blue Jays the lead.
That bat flip led to bad blood between these two teams that spilled over into 2016, and gave us an actual benches-clearing brawl between the two teams on May 15. That skirmish gave us the most indelible image of Rangers infielder Rougned Odor landing a punch squarely on Bautista’s chin.
Toronto is the American League Wild Card winner, outlasting their division rival Baltimore Orioles in extras on Tuesday night, with Edwin Encarnacion playing hero with a three-run walk-off home run in the 11th inning.
The Rangers won the American League West and with 95 wins own the best record in the AL, and thus have home-field advantage this year. The Jays held home field in their 2015 matchup, but that was a quirky series that saw the road team win the first four games before Toronto won the decider at home.
In 2016, Toronto won four of the seven meetings between the two teams, played within a two-week span in May. Home teams won five of the seven contests, and there were four one-run games, plus another 3-1 win by Toronto won on a 10th-inning home run by Justin Smoak.
“This year there were some highly contested games in two series. That one in Toronto that -- I mean, it had a playoff atmosphere early on in the season,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister told reporters on Wednesday. “And then here in our ballpark, everybody saw kind of how two teams played emotional.
“But at this point, I gotta believe that the emotion of this series is based on playing well, performing well, and moving on to the next round.”
Cole Hamels starts for the Rangers in the opener on Thursday, the sixth Game 1 of his career. The left-hander owns a 3.03 career postseason ERA in 15 starts, with 91 strikeouts and 23 walks in 95 innings.
Marco Estrada gets the call for the Blue Jays in Game 1. He put up a 2.33 ERA in three postseason starts for Toronto in 2015, including allowing just one run in 6⅓ innings in a must-win Game 3 against the Rangers in Arlington.
ALDS Game 1 info
When: 4:38 p.m. ET
Where: Globe Life Ballpark, Arlington, Texas
TV: TBS, with Brian Anderson, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Simpson and Matt Winer on the call
Radio: ESPN Radio