But the Jays were Marco-calm. They worked counts. They forced Hamels to make mistakes. And when Bautista added his signature 425-foot, three-run home run in the ninth, he laid the bat sweetly on the ground.
“Well I think I have a couple of home runs in my career, and I’ve only flipped it once,” said Bautista. “So most of the time I do that.”
The best argument Bautista and the Jays ever had in this blood feud was that their finest moment in the rivalry was a baseball play: fastball in, home run out. Texas’s big victory, if you want to call it that, was a beaning from a recently imprisoned serial drunk driver in their last chance to do so, and a jaw-rattling punch from an infielder after Bautista slid into second. The Rangers won that game, sure. But the only way they bested Bautista and the Jays in a way that mattered to anybody was with the-bar-just-closed machismo.
If you want to strut, though, win the baseball games that matter. This was the Jays at their best, and maybe the Rangers at their worst. It’s only one game but the first punch has been thrown, piece by piece by piece. And it was the Jays who knew how to swing.
Bautista’s bat drop. pic.twitter.com/pU3ycNCvWH
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) October 6, 2016
Coming off their walk-off wild-card win, the Jays swaggered into Globe Life Park for the first game of the American League Division Series and laid waste to the AL West Division champions with a 10-1 thrashing.
Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run triple keyed a five-run third inning and Marco Estrada became only the second pitcher in Blue Jays history to pitch at least eight shutout innings in a playoff game.
“He’s mastered his craft,” said manager John Gibbons. “I mean, he was sticking it today. He’s a very calm guy and that’s the key. Early in the playoffs like this, players can get too amped up and it works in favour of a guy like Marco who loves it when hitters get aggressive. A guy with a good changeup can be very effective in that situation.”
He came back out for the ninth in a bid to finish off the first complete game of the season and the first complete-game post-season shutout in the history of the franchise. Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus nixed that plan, leading off with a triple and scoring on a subsequent groundout. In all, Estrada pitched 8.1 innings, allowed four hits, struck out six and did not walk a man.
“Two outs away from finishing it,” said Estrada, ruefully. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t. But who cares? We won. That’s all that matters.
Marco Estrada dominated, giving up just four hits and one run over 8.1 innings, Troy Tulowitzki hit a bases-clearing triple to bust it open early, and Jose Bautista delivered the exclamation point with a late three-run homer, as the Jays crushed the Rangers in Game 1. TOR leads ALDS 1-0.
It was his second homer in Toronto’s second post-season game of 2016 and the sixth of his career, tying Bautista with Joe Carter for most in franchise history.
Texas was already bleeding out by then but it was the kill shot.
“I feel happy that we won the ball game,” Bautista observed mildly afterwards, refusing to rise to the bait of a cock-strut. “Coming off of having to claw our way back into the playoffs in the wild-card game. Putting up a lot of runs feels good, especially when you’re backing a start like Marco had today.”
Yes, let’s not lose sight of the remarkably assured mound from performance by Estrada — replicating the elimination-averting start from ALDS 2015 between these same teams, except there was no do-or-die dimension Thursday. Just the chance to put an early stamp on this series.
“You look back at the playoff games he pitched last year, backs against the wall,” said manager John Gibbons. “He dominated. Then he goes out and does that again today. He’s a master at his craft. He was sticking it today.
“Probably as good as any pitcher I’ve ever had, in crunch time, he gets in those jams, he’s Houdini.”
We scored 5 runs in the 3rd inning:
Ezequiel Carerra worked a 1-out walk, then all the scoring happened after 2 outs. Josh Donaldson doubled off Adrian Beltre’s glove, it was 108 mph off the bat, so a very tough play, it went right through him (the play at second was very close, the Rangers challenged the call, but it was too close to overturn), sending Ezequiel home. Edwin Encarnacion singled, off Cole Hamels’ glove, if he let it go I think it would have been an easy ground out. Jose Bautista singled to center, scoring Josh. Russell Martin walked.
And then the big hit, Troy Tulowitzki flied deep to center field, a ball that Rangers center fielder could have caught, but he pulled up at the last second, I’m guessing afraid of running into the wall. That scored 3 and that pretty much ended any doubt that we’d win.
We got 2 runs in the 4th inning:
Melvin Upton hit a leadoff homer. An out later, Devon Travis reached on an Elvis Andrus error (Grant Brisbee tweeted that Elvis has the 4th highest playoff WAR for any Blue Jay). A passed ball moved Travis to second and he scored on a Donaldson single.
And we got 3 more runs in the 9th:
Jose Bautista hit a 3-run bomb, scoring Donaldson and Encarnacion. I’m so happy for Jose.
We had 13 hits and 6 walks. When was the last time we had 13 hits? Just about everyone had a great day. Donaldson had 4 hits, with 2 doubles and 2 RBI. Troy Tulowitzki had 3 hits, with a triple and 3 RBI. Encarnacion and Bautista had 2 hits each, Jose had 4 RBI. Carerra reached base 3 times, a single and 2 walks.
Starter Marco Estrada was a combination of dominance and efficiency, allowing just four hits and one run. The right-hander pitched into the ninth, finishing with six strikeouts over an impressive eight and a third innings and needing just 98 pitches.
Josh Donaldson got the scoring started for the Blue Jays in the third inning with a scorching line drive double off the glove of Adrian Beltre that scored Ezequiel Carrera from second. Carrera had walked earlier in the inning and, following a game of cat-and-mouse with Cole Hamels, advanced on a wild pitch. Bautista was next up and sent a hanging curveball into centre for an RBI single.
Troy Tulowitzki broke the game open later in that inning with Encarnacion, Bautista, and Martin all on base and two outs. On Hamels’ 40th pitch of the inning, Tulowitzki drove a triple up against the wall in right-centre field that cleared the bases and put the Blue Jays out front by a score of 5-0. Centre-fielder Ian Desmond had a shot at making the play, but lost track of where he was in relation to the wall and looked down to check his distance as the ball fell.
Estrada outduels Hamels
Hamels has a more impressive pedigree and longer track record — 15 previous post-season starts and a 2008 World Series MVP — but Marco Estrada was the better pitcher on Thursday. The underrated right-hander, who for the second straight season had the lowest opponent’s batting average in the American League, was two outs away from joining Dave Stieb as the only pitchers in Blue Jays history to throw a complete-game shutout in the post-season. Instead he settled for a non-historic gem, allowing just one run on four hits over 8 1/3 innings. Estrada, who was arguably the Jays’ best playoff pitcher last year, has a 1.95 ERA in four post-season starts since 2015. A byproduct bonus of his outing is how it saved the Jays’ bullpen, which has carried an especially heavy load in recent weeks.
As Dirk Hayhurst explains, Cole Hamels’ struggles combined with bad Rangers defence sunk Texas in Game 1 of the ALDS.
Including his Game 1 start in the 2015 ALCS at Kansas City, in which the righty allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings in a 5-0 Blue Jays loss, Estrada has an ERA of 1.95 in his four post-season starts as a Blue Jay and an insane WHIP of 0.687. He has issued one walk in those four starts. One. Not in each start, in all of them combined. That’s not a typo.
And if you don’t include Game 1 against the Royals? Well, then it gets silly. Three earned runs in 22 1/3 innings for a minuscule ERA of 1.21. 12 hits, one walk, 15 strikeouts – the WHIP goes down to 0.582.
Estrada may well be the greatest hidden gem that there is in the game. Earlier this season, he set a major-league record by making 13 consecutive starts of at least six innings and allowing no more than five hits. He is a master of inducing weak contact in an era in which it’s believed that pitchers don’t have the ability to do that. He led the major leagues in infield fly ball percentage this season (16.9%) and has led the American League in opponents’ batting average two years in a row.
Estrada does it with an incredible changeup that he controls impeccably, and now it seems as though he’s mixing in a curveball and a cut fastball just for fun.
He struck out Carlos Gomez on a curveball to begin the game and when he faced the Rangers’ leadoff man again in the sixth, threw him two change-ups followed by three cutters and a fastball before striking him out again on a change.
He disappointed no one but the overwhelmed Rangers. “He had a great day,” said Texas manager Jeff Banister. “We didn’t have a great day.”
Estrada looked to the dugout in the ninth inning for an answer. He looked at manager John Gibbons, who wasn’t making eye contact with him.
“I was looking at Gibby the whole time. I was yelling ‘I got it, I got it.’ He never really looked at me. So obviously, once you see him point, that’s it. There’s nothing else you can do about it … And we got the win. that’s what matters.”
This was Estrada’s fourth playoff start as Jay. He doesn’t look much like Madison Bumgarner or Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson. He doesn’t intimidate batters the way they did. His playoff earned run average is now a startling 1.72. That’s intimidating enough — and he’s never been better than he was in Game 1. And it has never been more important.
Manager John Gibbons didn’t make the obvious choice in picking Marcus Stroman to pitch the wild card game. And he didn’t make the obvious choice in picking Estrada to pitch Game 1 against Texas. And those selections worked out wonderfully and now the series tilts so much in favour of the Jays.
J.A. Happ starts Friday in Game 2. Aaron Sanchez pitches Game 3. Stroman pitches Game 4. The Rangers can match up with Yu Darvish in Game 2, but after that, it is advantage Blue Jays, maybe big advantage. And the Jays got away without using any of their important bullpen arms in Game 1. Estrada made all that happen.
“He makes it look easy out there but it’s not,” said Russell Martin, the catcher, of Estrada. “He makes my job easy.”
Said Estrada: “He makes my job easy. I just look at Russ’ glove and I try to hit it as much times as possible.”
The Blue Jays discuss Marco Estrada’s brilliant Game 1 performance, the big day offensively against Cole Hamels, and how happy they were for Jose Bautista to crush a three-run shot against Texas.
The animosity toward Bautista and the Blue Jays was about as raw as you’ll ever see in a sporting venue, but the Blue Jays are used to that. Doesn’t faze them one bit, especially Bautista.
“I feel happy that we won the ball game,” said Bautista, after going 2-for-4 with a homer and a single and driving in four runs in Toronto’s 10-1 win.
“Coming off of clawing our way back into the playoffs and the wild-card game and putting up a lot of runs early feels good, especially when you’re backing a start like Marco (Estrada) had today.”
Bautista seemed almost embarrassed that the flap over the bat flip and the May 15 punch-up at second base has taken such precedence over the series itself.
“It feels good to contribute, no matter what game it is, but especially in the playoffs. I wanted to avoid all the questions about the whole ordeal because we’re baseball players, not UFC fighters, and we come here to play baseball games.
“That’s why I wanted everybody to kind of focus on that in our clubhouse. We did that and we played a pretty good baseball game today and hopefully we continue to do that.
“I’m not making this about myself, but helping my team feels good.”
Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki, who hit second, third, fourth and sixth respectively in manager John Gibbons’ order, combined to go 11-for-18 with one home run, one triple, two doubles, six runs scored and nine RBI.
Add that to their wild-card game output and over the last two games those four hitters are 15-for-34 with seven extra base hits, nine runs scored and 13 RBI.
The offence, inconsistent at its best in September and dormant at its worst, did a number on Rangers’ starter Cole Hamels and chased him early.
Lest you get too excited about what you saw, level-headed Tulowitzki is here to give you some perspective.
“I think they made some mistakes; I think we put some good swings on some balls,” said Tulowitzki.
Then, for anyone salivating at the notion the offence has returned to form, Tulowitzki went further.
“I don’t think we should get carried away, though. It is just one game,” said Tulowitzki. “(Friday), Yu (Darvish) is a great pitcher on the other side. We definitely have our hands full. It’s just one game.”
Fair enough; and the Jays were the beneficiaries of some shoddy Rangers’ defence which, by the way, could lead to Texas’ demise if they don’t stunt the trend which began in the fifth game of last year’s Division Series. Players remember past defeats and the reasons why and while they won’t often admit to it in the moment, in hindsight guys sometimes cop to the cold, hard truth: Bad memories get into their heads and can be difficult to let go. If this happens, or has already happened, it’s advantage Blue Jays.
The triple also extended the inning for Hamels, who threw 42 pitches in the third alone, the most he has needed for any frame in his 11-year MLB career. Soon afterwards, the Blue Jays chased the left-hander from the game and positioned themselves to add insurance runs against a vulnerable Rangers bullpen on their way to a 10-1 win.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays’ bullpen effectively had the day off thanks to the offensive outburst. That’s a bonus on any day, and especially when your closer continues battling shoulder tightness. Manager John Gibbons didn’t say whether Roberto Osuna was available Thursday, but the clear preference was to rest him if at all possible.
That third inning would have unfolded much differently had Desmond found a way to catch Tulowitzki’s triple. As Banister said, “we’ve seen him make that catch.” Regardless, Tulowitzki squared up Hamels, someone he has faced plenty of times dating back to their years in the National League.
“I’ve seen Cole so much. He’s seen me,” Tulowitzki said. “We’re pretty familiar with each other. If he makes his pitch, usually he gets me and if he leaves one out there then I have the ability to barrel it up.”
Tulowitzki isn’t the type to flaunt his success, but the 92-mph fastball he hit wasn’t a pitcher’s pitch.
“We have a lot of respect for Cole,” Tulowitzki said. “He’s a special pitcher. But I think he made a few mistakes and that he’d be the first one to say that. That’s unlike him and I’m sure if we see him again he won’t do that.”
Troy Tulowitzki explains what it was like hitting a three-run triple off of Cole Hamels and what the expectations are for the Blue Jays going into Game 2.
Lately, Donaldson has hit some balls hard, but they’ve found leather.
The tide may have finally turned.
“I hope so,” said Donaldson, emerging from the treatment room long after many of his teammates had exited the clubhouse.
“It’s always nice when they fall. All you can do as a hitter is try to put together a good at-bat, hit the ball hard. Sometimes, when you hit the ball soft it works out, too. Today, I was able to get some hits, contribute to this win and it was nice to get that run early.”
The one that glanced off a leaping Beltre’s glove kickstarted it all, even if it was a bit surprising.
“He’s done it to me so many times in the past, you kind of just expect it,” Donaldson said.
Coming into the series, as a team, the Blue Jays had scored the fewest runs in all of baseball since Sept. 1.
Yes, even the lowly 59-103 Minnesota Twins had plated more.
The 10-run barrage could be a good sign for Donaldson and the dormant bats.
“You’d like to think that, but the game of baseball doesn’t owe you anything,” Donaldson said. “You just go out there and play as hard as you can and try to play as smart and as aggressive at the same time, and I felt like we were able to do that today.”
Donaldson’s first double kickstarted a five-run third inning, taking an amped-up crowd that came to the ball park with a hate on for Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays completely out of the game.
Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have delivered so far in the first two games of the playoffs, going 12-for-25 with three home runs, 10 RBIs and nine runs scored. Scott MacArthur and Steve Phillips break down their production.
Osuna, who left Tuesday’s wild-card win over the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th inning complaining of shoulder discomfort, has been feeling better, Gibbons says, but there is still some concern surrounding the closer’s availability, enough that the Jays went with eight relievers on the ALDS roster.
“With Osuna’s situation — we think he’s going to be fine — but you’ve gotta cover yourself,” Gibbons said. “Really, that’s what it came down to. If we get in a game and you’re down, there’s certain guys you don’t want to pitch just to pitch them.”
The extra arm meant Dalton Pompey, last year’s pinch-running specialist, was left off the roster for the series, along with infielder Ryan Goins and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
“Having that baserunner is a luxury,” Gibbons said of leaving Pompey off.
But making sure they had enough bullpen help in case Osuna can’t pitch early in the series or has some sort of setback was the priority.
Osuna threw a career-high 74 innings, which included a heavy workload down the stretch, as he threw 16 innings in the final month of the season, the most of any single month this year.
He also went a full two innings on the second-to-last day of the regular season against the Boston Red Sox, one of only two occasions this season Osuna was asked to get a full six outs.
“It, really, just grabbed him the other day and tightened up on him,” Gibbons said. “You’ve gotta be cautious with him. You think back in Boston the other Saturday night, he threw two innings, and then came back in that day game and threw an inning to close it out. He had one day off and then he was out there an inning-plus the other night, so he’s been throwing a lot. Anytime a kid feels something that’s not normal for him, you’ve gotta be a little concerned. But after getting checked out and all that, they don’t think it’s a big deal.”
With the Jays playing important games last weekend and in the AL wild-card on Tuesday, and the Rangers not playing meaningful baseball in more than a week, did that play a factor in the end result from Game 1? Steve Phillips and Scott MacArthur weigh in.
It is instructive to watch how a group of people absorbs a profound shellacking in a game that really matters. It says a lot about a place. Texas took its humiliating licks with dignity. The crowd stuck around long past the point most arenas would’ve emptied out.
At a guess this has three contributing factors – the south of Mason-Dixon rule that you may never leave your seat at a sporting event, even if under fire; that there’s nothing better to do on a Thursday night in Arlington; and considering the way they’d all swaggered in, they didn’t want to be seen skulking out.
In the day they had to think about it, the Blue Jays had been careful about trying to look tough with Texas. The shutdown response to any attempts in that direction is a flashback to Bautista getting cold-cocked by that swinging runt, Rougned Odor.
On Thursday, the local broadsheet could not resist running a front-page photo of Bautista reeling away from Odor’s assault. The town – such as it is – wanted very badly to get it on.
Sadly, the Rangers themselves showed little interest in matching their supporters’ bluster. Given a hundred opportunities, not a one of them would provide the sort of bully quote that would get the ball rolling.
The closest we got was Rangers manager Jeff Banister noting that Jays fans getting another shot at Odor “must be Christmas in Canada.” We assume that was a threat since Banister’s on-board circuitry does not permit him to tell jokes.
With a 46-30 record, a 3.29 ERA and 812 strikeouts in 100 career starts, no one can say Darvish has been anything other than successful as a Ranger. He’s been an all-star, he has struck out seemingly every active batter in baseball, and at times he has been overpowering.
“We have seen what he is capable of doing,” Rangers outfielder Carlos Beltran said before the series started. “He has the potential to be one of the best pitchers in the game.”
This was not a slight from a teammate, but the truth — potential. Darvish is one of the more talented right-handers in the game. He has earned his all-star invites. There is, however, more there. Beginning Friday, he needs to unleash the hounds.
What he has not done is win a big game by himself when all of baseball is watching. That’s what an ace does; he throws eight or more innings of shutout baseball against a top lineup, as Toronto’s Marco Estrada did Thursday. He makes one run stand up for a win.
He does what Hamels did for the Phillies during the 2008 World Series when he was named the MVP.
Dirk Hayhurst previews Game 2 between Toronto and Texas and discusses what the Blue Jays can expect to see from Rangers starter Yu Darvish on Friday.
Since being signed as a non-drafted free agent, Wil Browning, now 28, has done nothing but pitch well. He’s now reached Triple-A but the side-arming right-handed slinger spent most of 2016 in New Hampshire, leading the pitching staff in games. In his 46 appearances, Browning was 3-2 with 10 saves over 51 innings, posting a 1.94 ERA, 1.08 WHIP with a stellar 29.3% strikeout rate and 6.7% walk rate. He made just one appearance with Buffalo and gave up a run on a walk and no hits but struck out three batters in 1 1/3 innings. Browning is likely to pitch with Buffalo at some point next year but whether he can start there is a question that will be resolved in spring training and by the number of free agents the Blue Jays bring in for 2017.
Lawyer Tyler Smith said Pagan was charged upon entering the station with one count of mischief for the incident Tuesday during the Blue Jays-Orioles wild card game.
“We’re a little bit concerned, just because of … a trial by social media that he’s had to endure,” Smith said. “But right now the presumption of innocence applies to him and we look forward to getting disclosure in court.”
The lawyer added he doesn’t expect Pagan to face additional charges.
“He is doing his best to co-operate,” Smith said.
Pagan was in the University Ave. and Dundas St. W.-area station for about two hours, and upon leaving walked past media without comment again before getting into a waiting SUV.
On Wednesday night, Pagan, who is an employee of Postmedia who works in Hamilton, told the Toronto Sun he had made arrangements to turn himself in. He also said he “was drinking out of a cup” at the game. Smith would not comment when asked about that.
When asked why it took until Thursday evening for Pagan to report to the police station, Smith said the man wanted to ensure he had a lawyer.
“He caught wind that the police wanted to talk to him, so he made himself available. He wanted to get a little bit of advice before he did that.”
A mischief charge has been laid against a man alleged to have tossed a beer can on the field during Tuesday’s Blue Jays playoff game. Ken Pagan was charged after surrendering at a downtown police detachment and is scheduled to appear in court in Toronto on Nov. 24
Take your parrot for a stroll Mr. Encarnacion. You just sent your team into the ALDS!