texas Rangers (88-74)
Last playoff appearance: 2011, when they made their second consecutive World Series appearance.
How they got here: The Rangers' sixth AL West crown was clinched on the final day of the regular season. Only four other MLB teams also made the playoffs the year after having the AL's or NL's worst record. Texas was 8-16 a month into this season and was still eight games back on Aug. 1.
Stats: Texas was third in the majors with 751 runs scored, but it also allowed 733. The plus-18 run differential is by far the lowest among playoff teams. … Game 1 starter Yovani Gallardo won both of his starts this season against the Blue Jays this season, throwing 13⅔ scoreless innings. … Cole Hamels is 0-2 in four career starts against Toronto with a 6.97 ERA.
Watch for: Despite being bothered by a sore left thumb all season, and jamming the index finger on the same hand in mid-September, third baseman Adrian Beltre batted .427 (38-for-89) with five homers and 33 RBI over the final 22 games of the regular season.
toronto Blue Jays (93-69)
Last playoff appearance: 1993, when they won the second of back-to-back World Series titles. Their 22-year playoff drought had been the longest active streak in the majors.
How they got here: The Blue Jays went 43-18 down the stretch, undoing a seven-game deficit to overtake the Yankees and win the AL East.
Stats: Toronto led the majors with 891 runs, scoring 127 runs more than the next-best offense, the Yankees, who had 764. … The Blue Jays also led the majors with 232 homers. …Toronto finished with a 3.81 team ERA, good for fifth-best in the AL. ... The Jays finished 15-28 in one-run games, the worst record in the majors. … David Price will be starting Game 1 on 11 days' rest.
Watch for: Expected to miss the season after tearing his left ACL during a spring-training fielding drill, Marcus Stroman underwent a rigorous rehab while attending summer classes at Duke University. He then gave Toronto's rotation a much-needed boost by returning in September to make four sparkling starts.
schedule (*if necessary)
Thursday: Texas (Gallardo 13-11) at Toronto (Price 18-5), 2:37 p.m. (FS1)
Friday: Texas (Hamels 7-1) at Toronto (Stroman 4-0), 11:45 a.m. (MLBN)
Sunday: Toronto (Estrada 13-8) at Texas (Lewis 17-9), 7:10 p.m. (FS1)
*Monday: Toronto (Dickey 11-11) at Texas (Holland 4-3), TBA (FOX or FS1)
*Wednesday: at Toronto, TBA (FOX or FS1)
houston astros (86-76)
Last playoff appearance: 2005, when they reached the World Series.
How they got here: Clinched the second wild card on the last day of the regular season after leading the AL West for most of the year. Defeated the Yankees 3-0 in the wild-card game on Tuesday in New York.
Stats: Under first-year manager A.J. Hinch, the Astros made a 16-win improvement from last year's 70-92 record that came after three straight 100-loss seasons. ... Houston's pitching staff posted an AL-best 3.57 ERA. ... The Astros struggled on the road, going 33-48. ... Carlos Correa, the top pick in the 2012 draft, set a franchise record for home runs by a rookie despite not being called up until June 8. His 22 homers were the most by an AL rookie and led all AL shortstops. ... The Astros topped the AL with 121 stolen bases.
Watch for: Houston ranked second in the majors with 230 homers and hit two in the wild-card win at Yankee Stadium. The Astros tied a major league record with 11 players who had at least 10 homers. Jed Lowrie and Jake Marisnick added nine apiece.
kansas city royals (95-67)
Last playoff appearance: 2014, when they lost to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
How they got here: Won the AL Central by 12 games over the Twins for their first division title since taking the AL West in 1985. Went 11-17 in September but held off the Blue Jays for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Stats: Kansas City had three players hit 20 or more homers after having none accomplish that last season. ... Lorenzo Cain was fourth in the AL in wins-above-replacement (WAR) behind the Angels' Mike Trout, Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson and the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier. ... Kansas City had third-best team batting average (.269) in baseball and 10th-best ERA (3.73).
Watch for: The Royals ended a 29-year playoff drought last season, advancing all the way to the World Series. Most key pieces are back from that team, and they added more postseason pedigree by trading for Ben Zobrist and Jonny Gomes.
schedule (*if necessary)
Thursday: Houston (McHugh 19-7) at K.C. (Ventura 13-8), 6:37 p.m. (FS1)
Friday: Houston (Kazmir 7-11) at K.C. (Cueto 4-7), 2:45 p.m. (FS1)
Sunday: K.C. (Volquez 13-9) at Houston (Keuchel 20-8), 3:10 p.m. (MLBN)
*Monday: K.C. at Houston, TBA (FOX or FS1)
*Wednesday: Houston at K.C., TBA (FOX or FS1)