The Rangers/Jays series thus far has been a low-scoring affair, something no one would have predicted given the history between these two teams. Though for most of the game it was looking like it was going to be another heartbreaking loss for the Jays, they tied it up late in the ninth and walked it off one inning later, winning 3-1 over the Rangers. Justin Smoak accounted for all the offense the Jays would need, tying the game in the ninth, and winning it in the tenth, with two blasts to left field that turned the game for the Jays.
Rangers starter Martin Perez was good enough over his five innings, allowing four hits and three walks but taking advantage of timely strikeouts and two double plays to make the Blue Jays leave those runners on. Though there were several balls driven deep, none were deep enough to get runs on the board for the Jays. The Rangers’ bullpen made the shutout stand until the ninth inning, when Smoak hit a lead-off home run to knot the score. Phil Klein, the seventh Rangers pitcher of the game, did not have any better luck with Smoak than Shawn Tolleson.
The Jays countered with Marco Estrada, who had some questions as to his health after his last start. He struggled with his command in the first couple innings, but did settle down to go six innings, allowing only two hits while striking out three. One of those two hits was the lone run, which came on the second pitch of the game. Rougned Odor hit a home run to right field, establishing a lead that held up until the fateful ninth inning.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
The Jays came into the ninth inning trailing 1-0, and Tolleson came to the mound to close it out for the Rangers. Justin Smoak hit a home run to left field, his first of the season. Going from trailing to tied increased their chances to win by 43.8%.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
After Smoak’s home run in the ninth inning, the Jays continued to press against Rangers closer Shawn Tolleson, with Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, and Josh Donaldson all reaching base. With two outs and the bases loaded, Jose Bautista came up to the plate, and popped up to center field. This missed chance to end the game lowered the Jays’ chances to win by 15.8%.
Smoak Gets On the Board
With a game that saw the Jays strand eleven runners on the bases, they needed some key hits, and Justin Smoak provided them. His first home run of the season tied the game in the ninth inning, and his second in the tenth gave them the walk-off victory. It was fantastic to see Smoak hitting for power after a weird start to the season which saw him have only one extra base hit in 52 plate appearances.
Estrada Continues to Shine
After a start where Estrada clutched his shoulder on several occasions, there was some concern as to how he would perform in this one against a solid Rangers lineup. Estrada quieted those concerns with a fine start, with the lead-off home run to Odor being his only blemish. He did benefit from a little luck, with Brett Nicholas’ double bouncing over the wall in the second, holding baserunner Mitch Moreland at third, but he did have to get the next hitter out to make it stand, and did so.
Diekman vs. Barney
The Jays and Rangers cannot have a straightforward seventh inning anymore, it turns out. The Jays got the first two runners on base in that inning against hard throwing lefty Jake Diekman, before Darwin Barney strode to the plate and had a very lengthy at-bat. After taking a strike and bunting foul for strike two, Barney battled back to 3-2, and forced Diekman to throw 15 pitches, with Jays fans hoping for a big hit out of it. The result was sadly typical for the Jays of late, however, as Barney struck out on a pitch that caught the outside corner.
Trend to Watch
The Jays’ offense has struggled mightily so far this season, and that has not changed at all during the Rangers series. The return of Martin and the addition of Barney to the lineup made little difference to the results, as though they had several opportunities to score, they struggled to score runs against Perez, or the Rangers’ bullpen, until the ninth inning. The calendar flipping to May hasn’t done a lot for the dormant bats, and if the Jays are going to be the team everyone thought they would be, they’ll need to take advantage when they get runners in scoring position.
After splitting the first two games, the series continues tomorrow at 7:07 PM ET. The Rangers send Colby Lewis (2-0, 3.19 ERA) to the mound, and the Jays counter with Aaron Sanchez (2-1. 2.59 ERA). Both right-handers are making their sixth appearance of the season. Lewis memorably relieved Derek Holland in game 4 of the ALDS, not providing much relief for the Rangers in that one. Hopefully the Jays can bring back some unpleasant memories for the Rangers’ starter.
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