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Photo Credit: © Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Rivalry Week

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the pile of filled diapers.

The Blue Jays will head south to face their good ol’ pals, the 2015 and 2016 American League Division Series runner-ups, the Rangers! It’ll be a week full of shit-talking, fun-poking, bat-flip-gif-posting, and, since the teams won’t meet again until the inevitable annual shit stomping come playoff time, this merry band of dipshits will probably find an opportunity to do something needlessly stupid.

Oh, and hey, there might be some baseball played, too.

Monday at 8:05 ET

Marco Estrada has had a hell of a time recently. Over his last three starts, Estrada has been shelled for 17 earned runs on 28 hits and four homers. His last good start came against the Texas Rangers back on May 27 when the old friends duked it out at Rogers Centre. I’m not particularly worried about Estrada, nor will I buy into the he’s been figured out! narrative that sometimes gets tossed around. The thing is, Estrada has been using his changeup wore frequently than in previous seasons, and while it’s resulted in more strikeouts and fewer walks, batters are squaring up on the balls, which would explain the increase in home runs Estrada has allowed.

He’ll go up against Austin Bibens-Dirkx, a former Blue Jays farmhand who’s randomly broken into the league this season as a 32-year-old rookie. Bibens-Dirkx not only has an excellent name, but he also has a very good cutter which has been his most effective pitch so far this season. He’s only made two starts for the Rangers, as his other five appearances were as the team’s long guy. The most recent one was a gem against the Nationals in which he held Washington’s strong lineup to just three hits over seven innings.

Tuesday at 8:05 ET

The Blue Jays never seem to run into Nick Martinez. Not in 2016, not in the series back in May, and not during either one of the two playoff series. The last time the Jays lineup against Martinez, he tossed them batting practice. The Jays scored nine runs off of him in June 2015, but he’s been hidden ever since. But this week, that’ll change as the extreme ground ball righty will go for the Rangers on Tuesday. Martinez has had a rough time this season, owning a 4.67 ERA. He doesn’t strike anybody out, he’s usually in the zone, and he frequently uses a sinker that induces a high amount of balls on the ground. But this year, his sinker ball has been crushed as opponents are mashing a .673 SLG% against it.

In three starts since coming off the disabled list, Francisco Liriano has allowed just seven runs while holding opponents to 15 total hits over 17 innings. Considering the fact he allowed seven runs in two innings in his last start before hitting the DL, I’d say the off time was worth it. Perhaps the most important thing about Liriano’s strong return has been command. Over those three starts, the notoriously erratic Liriano walked only five batters, and his fastball command was pinpoint his last time out against Tampa Bay.

Wednesday at 8:05 ET

It’ll be the second stop for Tyson Ross’ reclamation project tour on Wednesday night. Ross, the former all-star Padre, made just one start in 2016 due to persistent shoulder troubles, will make his second start of the season for the Rangers. Between 2013 and 2015, Ross was San Diego’s best starter, but as I mentioned, elbow issues completely derailed his career. So far this season, he’s made four rehab starts in Triple-A, posting a poor 7.71 ERA, and one start at the big league level, in which he shut down Seattle for two runs over five-and-two-thirds. Ross primarily relies on a good slider to be effective, but after missing so much time due to injury, it’s difficult to say what to expect from him.

After last Friday’s implosion in which allowed seven earned runs while recording only three outs, Joe Biagini’s ERA for the season skyrocketed from 3.338 to 4.26 just like that. Before that really ugly start, Biagini had been excellent, going seven innings in back-to-back starts against Seattle and New York. Back in May when the Rangers were in Toronto, Biagini held them to two earned runs over six innings of work. So let’s hope we see something similar to that outing.

Thursday at 2:05 ET

It says TBD on MLB.com, but Thursday’s finale will be between Marcus Stroman and Martin Perez.

Perez, like everyone in this rotation not named Yu, has had a pretty bad time this season. He’s made 14 starts, owning a 4.72 ERA and a career-high 11.2 hits per nine innings. Somewhat similar to Martinez, Perez is a ground ball type pitcher who uses a sinker to induce contact. He isn’t quite as extreme, but he isn’t a guy who’s going to overpower you and generate too many whiffs.

Stroman had a pretty good start last weekend against the White Sox, going seven innings and allowing three solo homers. Over the past month-and-a-half Stroman has been ridiculously effective, going eight starts in a row reaching at least five-and-two-thirds innings and allowing more than three earned runs just once. Stroman hasn’t faced the Rangers yet this season, but as we know, he’s familiar with them, having faced them twice in the 2015 ALDS.

Thoughts…

It’s a pretty incredible stroke of luck that the Jays will play a four-game series against Texas without having to face Yu Darvish. Also, oddly enough, nobody Toronto will face this week started in the series back in May, and Bibens-Drikx, who made a relief appearance after A.J. Griffin was pulled early, was the only one of this week’s starters that pitched in that series.

That kind of tells you how Texas’ season has gone in regards to injuries. As of right now, Cole Hamels, Griffin, and Andrew Cashner are on the disabled list, so they’re scraping by with some pretty shitty starting pitching. It’s an excellent opportunity to capitalize on the Rangers, hopefully the bats are awake.