As soon as Edwin Encarnacion launched his walk-off home run on Tuesday night, talk in the baseball world shifted to how the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays would react as they revisited their year-old rivalry for at least another three games, possibly for four or five. If their were any concerns that either team would revert to child like antics instead of focusing on the task at hand of winning the baseball game, they were quickly quashed, as both the Rangers and Blue Jays came out to play baseball today, leaving the promotion of violence to Rangers fans and their young children.
Jose Bautista stepped up to the plate with Josh Donaldson standing at first base and two out in the first inning to a chorus of boos, but he was unable to do any damage, flying out to left fielder Carlos Gomez. The Blue Jays were close to getting in business again in the second inning, as with two outs, Kevin Pillar grounded to shortstop and almost beat the throw by Elvin Andrus, but a challenge by manager John Gibbons was not able to overturn the call on the field.
However, the Blue Jays finally broke through against Cole Hamels in the third inning after putting up some good at-bats against him earlier. Ezequiel Carrera, batting ninth in the lineup today, worked a walk with one out, and moved up to second base on a wild pitch while Josh Donaldson was at the plate. Donaldson then laced a double off of the glove of gold glove winner and future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre, making the score 1-0 for Toronto. Not to be outdone, Edwin Encarnacion hit a single off of the glove of pitcher Cole Hamels, putting men on the corners with one out for Texas’ favourite Blue Jay, Jose Bautista. Hamels tried his best, but Bautista won an eight pitch battle against the 2008 NLCS and WS MVP, hitting a line drive single to centre field, scoring Donaldson. Russell Martin then walked to load the bases for Troy Tulowitzki, who effectively ended this game with a three-run triple which increased the Blue Jays’ win probability by 17.4 percentage points. At the end of the inning, half an hour had passed, Hamels threw 42 pitches, and the Blue Jays found themselves leading the Rangers 5-0.
The main story today was on the pitching side of things for the Blue Jays, as Marco Estrada delivered yet another memorable postseason performance. Estrada held the Rangers scoreless through eight innings, until surrendering a lone run in the ninth. Marco’s signature pop up and weak flyball inducing ability was on display in Arlington, as he was able to retire the Rangers in the air seven times. His fastball & change up mix baffled the Rangers all afternoon long, helping Marco strike out six batters and allow only four hits.
Estrada allowed a leadoff single in the sixth inning, but as he is wont to do, he quickly ended the threat, with some help from his catcher Russ Martin. Elvis Andrus was running on the 3-2 pitch from Estrada, but Shin Soo-Choo flailed at the 77 MPH change up, and Martin gunned it to second base, allowing Devon Travis to make the tag and record the strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play. Estrada followed that up with another strike out, again swinging on a 77 MPH change up, sending Carlos Gomez back to the bench in sadness. The lone Rangers run scored in the ninth on a triple and ground out.
A secondary storyline today was the Rangers playing a fundamentally unsound game of baseball throughout, costing them a shot at victory in the first game of this best-of-five series. Not only did those two balls go off of gloves in the third inning, but on Tulowitzki’s bases clearing triple, centre fielder Ian Desmond seemed to have lost track of where the fence was, and pulled up early when it looked like he could have made the catch fairly easily. Then in the fourth inning, an errant throw from Elvis Andrus let Devon Travis reach base, and a passed ball from Jonathan Lucroy moved him up one base and helped him score when Josh Donaldson hit a single to centre field. That made the score 7-0 for the good guys, as Melvin Upton Jr. had lead off the inning with a solo home run earlier.
Bautista was not satisfied with a 7-0 victory, so he decided to cash three more by hitting a long home run off of Jake Diekman in the ninth inning following leadoff singles from Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. That brought the score to 10-0, a huge blowout that is hopefully a sign of things to come. Donaldson’s single was his fourth hit on the night, as he finished 4-4 with a walk, easily putting up the best offensive performance on the team. Supporting him were Bautista’s two hits and four RBI, Tulowitzki’s three hits and three RBI, and Ezequiel Carrera’s 1-3 with two walk day.
Tomorrow, the Blue Jays will be back at it in Texas at 1:00 PM EST, hoping to build off of their thrilling-yet-not-stressful game one 10-1 victory. They were able to take the crowd out of it early in this one, so much so that just a couple of hours after they stood up to boo him, by the time the seventh inning rolled around, the Rangers fans couldn’t be bothered to jeer Bautista when he approached the batter’s box for his at-bat. Tomorrow, J.A. Happ will look to emulate Estrada, and the bats will attempt to stay hot against Yu Darvish. If it is anything like today’s game, you will not want to miss it.
Lead Photo: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports