For the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s been 22 long years since they’ve competed in playoff baseball.
For the Texas Rangers, 2015 was thrilling season, culminating in a late run which propelled them from worst in the AL West in 2014 to first.
Both teams had a lot of things go right and made the right key moves to secure spots in the ALDS. Here’s a look back at the roads that brought them to October.
Toronto Blue Jays (93-69, AL East Champions)
Perhaps the biggest component of the Blue Jays’ success was the off-season acquisition of third basemen Josh Donaldson. Donaldson, who finished the season first in the league in RBIs at 123 and third in home runs with 41, kept the team floating around .500 and in the mix for the first half of the season with his MVP-caliber performance.
Other Blue Jays who played a role in the team’s ability to stay alive before the trade deadline included offseason pickups Marco Estrada and Russell Martin, and veterans Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mark Buehrle.
The start of the Jays’ surge came in late July at the trade deadline. In need of pitching depth, GM Alex Anthopoulos traded for a true ace in David Price, and bolstered the bullpen by adding veteran reliever Latroy Hawkins. Coupled with the resurgence of R.A. Dickey, the additions finally gave Toronto the pitching they needed to complement a dominant lineup – one that got even stronger with a July trade for Troy Tulowitzki.
50-51 on July 28 with eight games to makup on the New York Yankees, the Blue Jays went on a dominant second-half run that saw them take over first place, and eventually finish with 93 wins – six ahead of the Yankees. And now, as the Blue Jays get set to make a run at an American League pennant, they have arguably the deepest team in their league.
Texas Rangers (88-74, AL West Champions)
Entering the season under new manager Jeff Banister, the Rangers were anything but a popular postseason pick after going 67-95 in 2015. To make matters worse, ace pitcher Yu Darvish was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery during spring training, creating a giant hole in their rotation.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Texas found themselves struggling to stay close to .500, overshadowed by a young Houston Astros team that spent almost the entire season in sole possession of first place. What kept the Rangers in the conversation at all was a huge comeback season from Prince Fielder and a major offensive turnaround from Shin-Soo Choo, who played how the team envisioned he would when they acquired him two offseasons ago.
Approaching the trade deadline, the Rangers were in need of starting pitching to help in a push for the playoffs. While starters Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis adequately held down their spots in the rotation, they were still sorely missing a big-game pitcher to replace Darvish. At the trade deadline, Texas finally found their man when they acquired Phillies’ pitcher Cole Hamels.
In addition to Hamels, the Rangers pitching was helped by Shawn Tolleson’s emergence in the closer role. After the trade deadline, the Rangers went 38-22, eventually taking over first place from the Astros in late September and winining the division by two games. With 2008 World Series MVP Hamels leading the rotation, the Rangers have as good of a chance as any team to make a deep run.