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ALDS Game 3: Blue Jays vs. Rangers lineups

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Here are the starting lineups for Game 3 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

BLUE JAYS

LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Chris Colabello
Dioner Navarro
2B Ryan Goins
CF Kevin Pillar

SP Marco Estrada

Toronto is going heavy on right-handed-hitters in this must-win matchup against Rangers left-hander Martin Perez. Chris Colabello is starting ahead of Justin Smoak at first base and Dioner Navarro will start over $82 million catcher Russell Martin. Trade deadline acquisition Troy Tulowitzki is 0-for-10 with four strikeouts in this series. He acknowledged to reporters ahead of Game 1 that he’s not fully recovered from a fracture of his left shoulder blade.

RANGERS

CF Delino DeShields Jr.
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Prince Fielder
1B Mitch Moreland
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos
3B Hanser Alberto

SP Martin Perez

Adrian Beltre remains sidelined with a back injury, so 22-year-old Hanser Alberto gets another start at third base. Alberto drove in two runs in Friday’s Game 2 win in Toronto. An MRI taken Thursday on Beltre’s back showed no structural damage and he could return to action if this best-of-five series goes longer. Texas has a 2-0 lead and can sweep the heavily-favored Jays in Game 3 on Sunday night. Mitch Moreland is starting at first base ahead of Mike Napoli with Toronto tossing a right-hander.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.