The last time Toronto played at Globe Life Park in Arlington they had their backs against wall in the American League Division Series. This time they may not be quite in such dire straits but they definitely need to keep up with the hot hitting Boston Red Sox and surprising Baltimore Orioles.
Martin Perez was coming off a solid start against Detroit following a good turn against the Blue Jays, so hopes were high for the Rangers for a repeat. He mostly succeeded, as he was able to keep the Jays hitters off balance and hold the Jays offense to two runs. His final line was 6.1 innings, five hits, two runs (one earned), three walks, and three strikeouts. On most nights, that’s enough to win, but not today. R.A. Dickey was masterful. He continued a pattern of recent strong starts and pitch one of his best outings as a Blue Jay. He only allowed four base runners all game, with only one reaching second base. In addiiton, we didn’t see a single passed ball or wild pitch! The warm Texas weather (82 F) was a perfect recipe for the knuckleball on this night. Dickey’s final line was eight innings, three hits, zero runs, one walk, and six strikeouts. He threw 111 pitches, 74 for strikes, and lowered his season ERA to 4.31.
The Jays offense mostly came against Rangers reliever Tom Wilhemsen. Edwin Encarnacion hit a solo shot and then Troy Tulowitzki followed it up by hammering a two run shot in the eighth, the 200th homer of his career, to putting the finishing touches of a 5-0 victory.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
In the top of the seventh, with the Jays up 1-0, aided by an Elvis Andrus error, the Jays were gifted another run. With two out and Darwin Barney at third, Texas reliever Sam Dyson uncorked a wild pitch (that nearly killed Josh Donaldson) to bring in the second gift wrapped run for a struggling offense to make the score 2-0. This increase the win probability by 10.6 percent (WPA of 0.106).
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
In the top of the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, the Jays score a run on a fielder choice off the bat of Tulowitzki. Saunders came up to the plate with an opportunity to add a much needed two out hit, but struck out to end the inning. This decreased the WPA by -.058 and at the time it felt like the Jays had squandered a golden opportunity in a tightly contested pitchers duel.
Trends to Watch
Justin Smoak’s Hot Bat
Justin Smoak took over the full time duties at first base after the 80 game suspension of Chris Colabello. He is clearly making the most of his opportunities, and had raised his numbers to .297/.430/.852 coming into tonight’s game. Tonight Smoak continued the excellent hitting going 2/2 with two walks, two doubles and a run scored. Smoak was generally considered one of the top five players in the 2008 draft but wasn’t able to find success in Seattle or Texas. Maybe with increased opportunity to play and a hitter friendly ballpark he can come close to his original potential.
Elvis Andrus’ Defensive Demons
After the series loss in Game 5 of the ALDS, the most heart broken member of the Texas Rangers was clearly shortstop Elvis Andrus. He made two crucial errors (and missed another ball) in the bottom of the seventh that helped to set the stage for the epic Jose Bautista “Bat Flip.” It seems that the defensive miscues and mental lapses have carried into this season against Toronto. In the first four games he looked tentative in the field against the Jays, then tonight he was unable to handle a ball up the middle by Michael Saunders which was ruled a single (though he could have gotten the runner had he fielded the ball cleanly) and made a crucial error in the sixth which set the stage for the first Blue Jays run.
Late Inning Scoring
Early in the season the Jays were not in the habit of scoring runs late in a game. However, the last two games has seen the team score six runs in the eighth and ninth inning. Hopefully this pattern is the beginning of seeing the type of offense we were use to last season.
The Jays will try to make it two in a row as Marco Estrada will take on right hander Colby Lewis starting at 8:05 pm. Estrada has been great the last two times he has faced this lineup, but Lewis looked very sharp last time out as well.
Lead Photo: Jim Cowhert-USA TODAY SPORTS