The underdogs in both these series took the first game, and thus "stole" home-field advantage. Whether that makes a difference or not remains to be seen, though it should be noted that the Astros in particular might have taken a huge step forward. As I have noted previously, the Astros had not only the worst road record among all this year's postseason teams, but the worst road record in the entire American League (33-48). And yet, they took to the road for their first two playoff games and won them both.
Johnny Cueto pitched poorly for the Royals -- 4.76 ERA, 1.451 WHIP, 10 home runs allowed in 13 starts. Heck, Dan Haren was better for the Cubs. Cueto pitched poorly in the 2014 wild-card game for the Reds; Scott Kazmir has postseason experience (for Joe Maddon's Rays), but that happened six and seven years ago.
If Houston wins this afternoon, that puts tremendous pressure on the defending A.L. champions.
The Rangers, who like the Astros weren't expected to be here this year, took care of Cy Young candidate David Price Thursday. The Jays have Marcus Stroman, who wasn't expected to come back from injury this year, but who did with four brilliant September starts. The Rangers counter with Cole Hamels, whose numbers after the trade from Philadelphia were almost identical to his Phillies stats, except without a no-hitter.
Here's the rest of the info you need for today's games.
Rangers at Blue Jays, 11:45 a.m. CT. Cole Hamels vs. Marcus Stroman. TV: MLB Network. Announcers: Bob Costas, Harold Reynolds, Jim Kaat and Ken Rosenthal
Astros at Royals, 2:45 p.m. CT. Scott Kazmir vs. Johnny Cueto. TV: FS1. Announcers: Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz and Jon Paul Morosi.
This will be the only thread for today's A.L. games, while we await the Cubs/Cardinals matchup. The game preview for Cubs/Cardinals will post at 3:30 p.m. CT. Until then, enjoy, and discuss amongst yourselves.