The Blue Jays are heading home with a 2-0 series lead in their ALDS matchup against the Texas Rangers. With a 5-3 win in Game two this afternoon in Arlington, the Jays have put themselves in the best position possible ahead of Game three Sunday night at the Rogers Centre.
No one expected this afternoon’s game to be the laugher that Game one turned out to be and it most definitely wasn’t, with the Rangers mounting a late rally that had the Blue Jays use every high leverage reliever at their disposal to lock down the game.
For the second game in a row, the offence that had disappeared for most of September reappeared at Globe Life Park, providing the Jays’ pitching staff with a five run cushion, albeit in the most unexpected of ways. Unless you expected Kevin Pillar and Ezekiel Carrera to go yard off of Texas co-ace Yu Darvish, the former on a pitch that was closer to his eyeballs than it was the strike zone. More predictably, Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion contributed home runs of their own.
Despite not being as dominant as he was throughout the course of the regular season, J.A. Happ was able to limit the Rangers to one run over five plus innings pitched. Happ racked up 84 pitches and surrendered nine hits but consistently worked his way out of jams with runners on to keep the Blue Jays in control before handing the ball over to the bullpen.
The Rangers have become known for mounting late season comebacks this season and as John Gibbons started to dip into his bullpen it looked for a moment as if they may be ready to author another one this afternoon. The Rangers’ propensity for late inning comebacks and the Blue Jays’ sometimes shaky (and currently ailing) bullpen made for a nerve-racking ending to a hardly fought game.
Francisco Liriano, entered the game in the eighth inning with a three-run lead, but after surrendering a leadoff double and walk around an Elvis Andrus fly ball, he was struck in the back of the head/neck. It is unclear exactly where the ball struck the Jays’ lefty, but it was reported by TSN’s Scott MacArthur that he was taken to a local hospital. Fingers crossed that Liriano is alright and that the move is only precautionary.
The horrific play ended with Rangers on the corners and a 5-3 Blue Jays’ lead. This made John Gibbons call on Roberto Osuna – who left Tuesday’s Wild Card game with a shoulder issue of his own – in order to preserve the Blue Jays’ lead.
Osuna was absolutely fantastic and locked things down for a five-out save, throwing 31 pitches in the process.
One of the more civil exchanges that we’ve witnessed between these two baseball teams occurred in the bottom of the third inning this afternoon at Globe Life Park. When Russell Martin discarded his mask while making a play on a pop up in foul territory, Rougned Odor picked it up and returned Martin his mask after the play. With all of the bad blood, bad fans and stupid behavior that surrounds the Jays/Rangers rivalry, it’s nice to see that these teams and players can indeed be civil with each other.
Devon Travis was scratched minutes before the game with what is being described as “right knee irritation”. Roberto Osuna had to come out of the game on Tuesday and Francisco Liriano today. Joaquin Benoit is inactive and Josh Donaldson is likely still battling his hip injury, amongst other things. Thankfully, pitching with a herniated disk in his back seems to be absolutely no problem for Marco Estrada, but in any case, the Blue Jays are battling injuries to many of their key contributors. Hopefully Liriano is okay, and the travel day gives the rest of the ailing Jays an opportunity to rest and recover, as much as they possibly can.
Controversial Replay Call Goes Toronto’s Way
Ian Desmond’s decision to break for home after hesitating momentarily on an Adrian Beltre ground ball with one out in the seventh inning resulted in as close a play as you will ever see. While Desmond may have beat the tag at home (the umpires deemed replay evidence inconclusive), his risky decision cost the Rangers. With the infield back and a four run lead, the Blue Jays were conceding the run. Desmond’s initial hesitation hurt the Rangers and allowed the Blue Jays to sustain their four-run cushion heading into the eighth inning.
What it Means Going Forward
Game three of the ALDS goes Sunday night in Toronto, with Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00 ERA) taking on Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.71 ERA). Toronto heads home with a 2-0 stranglehold on the series, but we don’t have to look too far back to see how easily that type of lead can vanish. Anything can happen in a five-game series and don’t be surprised if and when it does.
While it might feel like the right time to start giving it to the Rangers and their fans, the job isn’t done just yet. The always-wise Tao of Steib reminds us:
There are some boastful witticisms I'd like to share, but I recall that those guys won game 1 last year.
— Tao of Stieb (@TaoofStieb) October 7, 2016
It’s as true today as it was yesterday.
Lead Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sport