Standard operating procedure for Rangers
Texas stormed back into contention and won the AL West by virtue of a healthy and improving lineup. For Game 1, against Jays southpaw David Price, the Rangers will employ their usual batting order against a left-handed pitcher.
That means right-handed-hitting Mike Napoli gets the start at first base over lefty Mitch Moreland, and Napoli will bat fifth, which is Moreland's usual spot in the lineup against righties.
Otherwise, it's business as usual for Texas. Speedy Delino DeShields (25 stolen bases) will get things going at the top, with versatile Shin-Soo Choo hitting second to set the table for veteran sluggers Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder.
Napoli provides plenty of October experience, having been on Rangers playoff teams in 2011 and 2012 and the World Series-champion Red Sox in 2013.
The Rangers will hope to get a lot from Josh Hamilton, who came back to Texas in a much-publicized midseason trade with the Angels, in the sixth spot. He'll be followed by stalwart shortstop Elvis Andrus, emerging offensive threat Rougned Odor at second base, and catcher Robinson Chirinos.
Chirinos is in the lineup because he's a regular catcher for starter Yovani Gallardo. The Rangers often split catching duties based on preference in working with certain starters, which makes it likely that Chris Gimenez will catch Cole Hamels in Game 2.
"There's been a certain formula that has worked well for us," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "When you construct a lineup and put a group of hitters together, how well they work together up and down the line, but also constructing innings, [you're] trying to put innings together with the opportunity to give yourself a chance to score runs."
Delino DeShields, cf
Shin-Soo Choo, rf
Adrian Beltre, 3b
Prince Fielder, dh
Mike Napoli, 1b
Josh Hamilton, lf
Elvis Andrus, ss
Rougned Odor, 2b
Robinson Chirinos, c
Yovani Gallardo, p
Tulo back in the thick of it
It's been easy to lose track of the fact that the Blue Jays' juggernaut of a batting order also features Troy Tulowitzki, because the shortstop was out with a cracked shoulder blade from Sept. 12-Oct. 2 and only returned in time for two of Toronto's last three regular-season games.
Not only is he back in the lineup for the AL Division Series opener, but he's back to batting fifth in the order after hitting seventh in the two games he played upon coming back from the injury.
"He was seventh down there for those two games because we were concerned about his timing, how he looked, trying to win those games," manager John Gibbons said prior to Game 1. "Everything we saw was good and, of course, he's one of the guys who had some success against Gallardo from their days in the National League. He's hit him pretty good, so we'll put him back up there and let him run with it. He's not 100 percent, but he's sure good enough."
Otherwise, it's the same Blue Jays lineup that has been torturing opponents since August. Ben Revere, another midseason trade acquisition, brings his skills as a catalyst to the leadoff spot, and he's followed by the modern-day right-handed murderer's row from lineup spots 2 through 5: sluggers Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Tulowitzki.
After that, switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak will get the start against the right-hander Gallardo, and he'll be followed by veteran catcher Russell Martin.
Gibbons usually has center fielder Kevin Pillar batting eighth and second baseman Ryan Goins ninth, but he has flipped that for Game 1. Goins is in the 8-hole and Pillar will round out the bottom of the order.
"You look at what Pillar has done, Goins since he has taken over, he has had a great year," Gibbons said. "So that's key, that was a little bit of a black hole for us last year. This year the guys really stepped up in an unheralded role. They've done a great job."
BLUE JAYS LINEUP
Ben Revere, lf
Josh Donaldson, 3b
Jose Bautista rf
Edwin Encarnacion, dh
Troy Tulowitzki, ss
Justin Smoak, 1b
Russell Martin, c
Ryan Goins, 2b
Kevin Pillar, cf
David Price, p