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Morning Coffee – Sat, Oct 8

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 07: Ezequiel Carrera #3 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with Edwin Encarnacion #10 after hitting a solo home run against the Texas Rangers in the fifth inning of game two of the American League Divison Series at Globe Life Park in Arlington on October 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“Home runs are always a good thing” – Gibbons | “No Panic” – Osuna

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 07: Ezequiel Carrera #3 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates with Edwin Encarnacion #10 after hitting a solo home run against the Texas Rangers in the fifth inning of game two of the American League Divison Series at Globe Life Park in Arlington on October 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Jays take charge with four swings — and a prayer: Arthur | Toronto Star

“It’s very fun when everybody gets hot like we are right now, hitting good,” said first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who hit his second home run in three playoff games. “It’s very fun to be a part of. We didn’t have that great a season, everybody didn’t hit the way we used to hit, and now we’re here, and the perfect moment for everyone to get hot.”

Some of it was just silly. Troy Tulowitzki, two-run shot, second inning, sure: that makes sense. Then the weird stuff: In the fifth, Kevin Pillar took a softball swing on a fastball that was up around his shoulders and he hit it 370 feet down the left-field line. It was one of the highest pitches of the season to be turned into a home run. The next batter, Ezequiel Carrera, took an inside fastball and hit it 388 feet to right-centre, where the Rangers bullpen shrinks the wall from 407 in centre to 377 feet. Home run, again.

Pillar and Carrera combined for 13 home runs in 818 at-bats this year. Oh, and Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is terrific. Encarnacion hit another one, just for good measure. It was 5-1, and in two games the Jays had turned Texas’s two ace pitchers, Cole Hamels and Darvish, into punchlines.

“Four unexecuted pitches,” said Rangers manager Jeff Banister. “What it boils down to is a thin margin in these type of games. Four home runs and four unexecuted pitches.”

But things change. The Rangers were putting runners on base all day and finally got within 5-3, and Osuna had to come on in the eighth inning, a few days after he felt “a stretch” in his throwing shoulder. His velocity was back up to 97 or 98 on the scoreboard, and he had everything he needed. In addition to entrance music by the same name, Osuna has No Panic written on his shoes. He said afterwards he couldn’t worry about his shoulder, and didn’t.

“You know how you feel,” said Osuna. “And if you feel something weird, you stop. I didn’t feel anything, and I was pretty strong today.”

Blue Jays hang on to win tense Game 2 of ALDS – Toronto Sun

“Home runs,” said Gibbons. “Home runs are always a good thing. Tulo had another big game today. He had a big game yesterday. Got us on the board.”

In each of the first four innings, Happ stranded two base-runners, eight in all, while giving up only one run.

After escaping the first three innings, he finally was dinged for a run in the fourth. He got two quick outs, then gave up consecutive singles to Nomar Mazara, Carlos Gomez and Desmond. Happ got Beltran on a ground ball to end the inning and maintain that 2-1 advantage.

Darvish gave that run back, plus two more, in the top of the fifth with a trio of solo homers, two from a couple of unlikely sources and the third from a very likely bat. Leading off the inning, Pillar got ahead 2-0, fouled off a pitch, then tomahawked the next pitch up around his eyes, down the left-field line and into the bleachers for a solo homer.

“I was just reacting,” said Pillar. “I felt like I’ve gotten good pitches to hit this whole series but haven’t been able to get any hits. I felt like I was going to get a fastball and I did.”

One out later, Carrera smashed a 1-1 pitch over the wall in right-centre. Another out after that, Encarnacion laced into a 2-1 pitch and hit a towering shot to left to make the score 5-1. It was the first time in club history that the Jays have hit more than three homers in a playoff game. It was also the first time in his career that Darvish has given up four homers in a game.

“Some good at-bats by some unlikely guys,” said Gibbons. “Carrera doesn’t hit a lot of home runs. Kevin doesn’t hit a lot of them, but he hits some big ones. And, of course, Eddie, who hits a lot of them.”

MLB: Blue Jays 5, Rangers 3 – Video – TSN

The Blue Jays hit four home runs off Yu Darvish, including fifth-inning solo shots from Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion. J.A. Happ allowed one earned run over five innings and Roberto Osuna came in to shut down a late comeback bid from the Rangers. TOR leads ALDS 2-0.

Jays win game 2 – Bluebird Banter

There were a lot of other things that are worth talking about in that game, but one I want to mention. In the 7th, Ian Desmond was on 3rd base, with 1 out and Adrian Beltre hit a grounder to Josh Donaldson. Ian, for unknown reasons, paused before going home. Donaldson threw home. When he did, I thought it was a terrible move. We were up 5-1, in the 7th, let the run score. Martin got the tag down just barely in time. Rangers challenged, but it went our way. I thought he was just barely out.

Jays win 5-3 in Texas to take a 2-0 ALDS lead | JaysNation

Yes, Osuna got the job done, but not before throwing 31 pitches across two innings, and giving up an Upton-aided double to Adrian Beltre in the ninth.

But they won! What’s with all this downer shit, amiright?

Troy Tulowitzki plays for the Toronto Blue Jays!

Kevin Pillar blasted a home run on a pitch that was, like, a foot above the zone!

We finally, officially, won the Yu Darvish sweepstakes!

The Jays are going back home up 2-0, with a bunch of chances for rest in the days ahead if they can get the job done on Sunday. It’s not over yet, of course. The Jays themselves came back from an 0-2 deficit in last year’s ALDS, so the Rangers remain a serious threat. But oh boy, with Aaron Sanchez on the hill and Darvish and Hamels vanquished, it’s going to be awfully, awfully tough for them.

The Blue Jays remain perfect in October.

Five key moments in Blue Jays’ Game 2 victory | Toronto Star

Donaldson nails Desmond

At first glance it looked like the smarter play may have been to just get the easy out at first, but with the Jays leading 5-1 in the seventh inning and Ian Desmond at third, Josh Donaldson decided to throw home on Adrian Beltre’s chopped grounder. Donaldson’s throw was high, so Russell Martin had to reach up to get it, but he was still able to apply the tag in time and home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale called Desmond out. Slow-motion replays showed it was incredibly close, but after a review the call on the field stood. The out proved crucial as the Rangers rallied for two runs in the eighth. “I think (Desmond) stutter-stepped, which helped,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Any time … you can cut a run down with an out instead of going to first base, that plays big in games like this.”

By the Numbers: Jays’ postseason run – Video – TSN

After the Blue Jays struggled in September and almost didn’t make the postseason, SportsCentre looks at how they’ve turned things around for October baseball.

Troy Tulowitzki and the Blue Jays power their way to 2-0 series lead – Jays Journal

Biagini came out to start the 7th and allowed a double to Ian Desmond.  Desmond was moved up on a Carlos Beltran ground out.  With Desmond on 3rd, Adrian Beltre hit a bouncer to Donaldson that saw Desmond hesitate to run home as he fielded the ball.  Donaldson gunned the ball to home and Russell Martin applied a tag to get Desmond at home.  The close play was reviewed but the call on the field held.  Biagini was taken out of the game with a runner on first and two outs for Brett Cecil to take on Odor.  Cecil walked Odor on four pitches and was removed for Jason Grilli.  Grilli faced Jonathan Lucroy with runners on first and second and was able to get Lucroy to foul out to Encarnacion at first to end the threat.

Francisco Liriano came in during the 8th inning to shut down the Rangers and pinch hitter Mitch Moreland scorched a ball down the 1st base line off of Encarnacion’s glove.  Edwin tried to make a great jumping catch but the ball rolled to the wall and became a double for Moreland.  Kevin Pillar made a nice sliding catch to collect the first out.  Liriano then walked Robinson Chirinos to put runners on first and second with one out.  Carlos Gomez hit a ball off the back of the head of Liriano and runner scored on the play.  Roberto Osuna would come on after the injury to Liriano occurred. It was reported soon after that game that Liriano was taken via ambulance to a local hospital.

Roberto Osuna came on with one out in the 8th inning and had to go through the heart of the meat of the order.  His first task was Ian Desmond who worked a full count.  Desmond grounded out to Tulo for out number two but another run came in.  Russell Martin dropped the first pitch to Carlos Beltran to allow Gomez to get to third base.  Osuna stuck out Beltran to end the inning with the score 5-3.

There Was at Least Some Panic in the Blue Jays 5-3 Win in Game 2 | Blue Jay Hunter

Although the Rangers mounted a late rally in the 8th and 9th inning, Roberto Osuna shut the door as the Blue Jays take a commanding 2-0 series lead heading back to Toronto.

I say “commanding” lead, but it’s a bit of a cautionary tale as we all know the Blue Jays experienced the exact opposite scenario one year ago in the ALDS; going down 0-2 at home, only to win the next two games on the road and finish the series at home.

But here’s the difference; the Blue Jays head back to Toronto with their “ace” on the mound on Sunday in the form of Aaron Sanchez. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers counter with Colby Lewis … so they certainly have some work to do.

The Blue Jays’ win today did not come without its concerns; the unknown status of both Francisco Liriano and Devon Travis is worrisome. Overall, the Blue Jays roster is already ailing; Josh Donaldson and Roberto Osuna just to name a few.

But judging by his four-out performance today, it doesn’t look like Roberto Osuna is showing any ill effects after exiting Tuesday’s Wild Card game.

The Blue Jays did indeed eek out a victory in Game 2, but I feel like they got a bit lucky in that one. The Rangers stranded a total of 13 runners on base and J.A. Happ alone allowed 10 base runners and somehow weaved his way to exit with only one earned run on the board.

Middle-to-late relief was a stress point for the Blue Jays, as that sequence of Cecil-Grilli-Liriano in the 8th inning was enough to make anybody’s heart rate escalate. The bridge to Roberto Osuna still seems to be a bit of a high wire act.

Where would Jays be without ‘The Man’ Tulowitzki? – Toronto Sun

In four playoff games at Globe Life Park over the past two seasons, including Friday’s 5-3 victory in which he belted a two-run home run to get things started, Tulowitzki is 7-for-16 with two homers, a triple and nine RBIs.

But even without that, manager John Gibbons sees Tulowitzki as being The Man, even without a bat in his hands.

“Right from the start when he came over last year, he started taking away hits, getting to balls, plays you’ve got to make. He really changed the dynamic of the team just by doing that. And of course he was a leader. There was a point where he was getting criticized for his lack of hitting. Of course, that mattered but in a way it didn’t because of the way he cleaned up our infield play.

“We don’t get there last year without him. I guess you could sum up (what he means to the team) that way.”

In some ways, the trade from the Rockies to the Blue Jays has provided a level of freedom for the shortstop. In Toronto, he is surrounded by a core of hardened veterans, not a cast of players looking for guidance.

“It was a different situation for me in Colorado,” said Tulowitzki after the game. “I was the guy and everybody came to me with questions and I had to help a whole bunch of young guys throughout the years. Coming here, I’m playing with a whole bunch of veteran ballplayers, some guys with a lot of numbers on the back of their baseball card. One thing we all have in common is that we look forward to winning every day.”

Tulowitzki not taking 2-0 start to ALDS for granted – Video – TSN

Troy Tulowitzki speaks with ESPN’s Britt McHenry following the Blue Jays Game 2 win over the Rangers, and says the team isn’t taking their series lead for granted.

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna looks like old self again – Toronto Sun

In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the Toronto Blue Jays clinging to a 5-2 lead with the tying run at the plate for the Texas Rangers, Osuna was tasked with cleaning up a messy situation.

The last time we saw Osuna, he was walking off the Rogers Centre mound on Tuesday night in the 10th inning, complaining of shoulder stiffness.

No one was quite sure what to expect Friday afternoon.

But Osuna looked like himself, getting Rangers shortstop Ian Desmond to hit a ground ball to Troy Tulowitzki for the second out of the inning.

While that scored a run to inch the Rangers closer, Osuna then struck out Carlos Beltran, a noted playoff performer throughout his 19-year career, to escape the eighth.

“You got to put a stop to this, at least keep the lead, because it goes the other way and that game’s over — and it was starting to go the other way,” said Jays manager John Gibbons, who turned to his closer after Francisco Liriano took a scary line drive to the head.

After a leadoff double by Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre to start the ninth inning, Osuna retired three in a row for the five-out save, preserving the 5-3 win for the Blue Jays.

“It was a huge game for us and they needed me,” Osuna said.

“I was feeling pretty good today. I got in the meeting with Gibby before the game and I told him that I was pretty good today, in case he needed me.”

The best news is that the 21-year-old’s shoulder felt good.

“That brings me a lot of confidence that I don’t feel any pain or anything and I’m looking forward to the next game,” Osuna said.

Osuna relieved to help Jays escape with Game 2 win – Video – TSN

Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna talks about how it feels to help the team survive a late scare to secure the Game 2 win, and how much confidence it gives him going into Game 3 to know he was able to pitch pain-free with his ailing shoulder.

Happ excited to take 2-0 lead back to Toronto – Video – TSN

J.A. Happ was able to tip-toe out of trouble all afternoon long, as he held the Rangers to just one run over five innings and earned his first career postseason win as the series shifts back to Toronto.

Cabbie Presents: Aaron Sanchez – Video – TSN

Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez returns to Cabbie Presents to discuss the pressure of playing in the playoffs, why you shouldn’t lose your man card for having to miss games in baseball with a blister, and how he knows when it’s time to take matters into his own hand and plunk a batter.

Blue Jays not thinking beyond Game 3: ‘You don’t want to give them any signs of hope’ – Toronto Sun

Strong starting pitching and the home-run ball have been constants when the Blue Jays are successful, and they did a whole lot of both in Games 1 and 2.

Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ did their part, while the bats bashed six home runs, after hitting just 25 in 29 games during a September swoon that almost sabotaged them even getting to this point.

The Rangers top two starters, Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, were no match for the Blue Jays’ suddenly hot offence.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Bautista, who hammered one of those half-dozen homers in the Game 1 win. “It’s been only three games, so we’ve gotta continue to win series and we’re not going to get too confident or cocky. I know we’re up two, we’ve just gotta come out and take the rest of this series and move on from there one game at a time.”

With Sanchez going on six full days rest in Game 3, Rangers manager Jeff Banister understands what kind of situation his team is facing.

“Yeah, I mean, we’re up against it,” the 52-year-old skipper said. “We’ve got to win three in a row. We were on the other side of that last year. I mean, we’ve been in situations where we won three games in a row before. We’ve got to start with one.”

As Donaldson noted, they’d prefer to not open the door for the Rangers to return the favour a year later and pull off their own remarkable series comeback.

“We’re confident but also still focused on what needs to be done because they have a really good ball club over there and we’re not underestimating their ability to win games,” Donaldson said.

Kelly: The ‘powerhouse’ Jays are back – and they’re expecting wins – The Globe and Mail

Considering the occasion, it was the worst start of Darvish’s major-league career.

It’s not that he was especially bad. For the most part, he was effective. Instead, at least right now, Toronto is just that good.

We’ve waited just over a year for the murderer’s-row version of the Blue Jays to make an appearance in the postseason. Lock up your bullpens. They’re here now.

It isn’t the hitting, per se. It’s the grim, efficient way in which it’s been done. Everyone in the order looks like he’s up there with a cricket bat.

Baseball is too discrete – pitch, stoppage in play, pitch, stoppage in play – to be a true momentum sport. You don’t break your opponent. You bend them to the idea that they are outgunned, and then let them break themselves.

Despite the surge from July, 2015, on, perhaps it’s taken the rest of baseball this long to catch up to the idea that the Jays are now a Yankees-style powerhouse when they want to be.

“I’ve been here four years and winning wasn’t something that was synonymous with the Blue Jays. We were kind of the doormat of the AL East,” Pillar said, in a burst of what might be called excessive post-facto honesty.

He described toiling for the pre-Donaldson, pre-Tulowitzki Blue Jays as “just going around and playing and seeing what happened.”

If it paints several seasons in this club’s history as defeatist, that’s an irrefutable conclusion. For a long time, watching the Blue Jays was a Zen exercise – observing the rituals of the game for their own sake, with no hope of reward.

Even after they got better, no one expected them to win. Performance can improve quickly, but expectations take longer.

That’s how Pillar described it – “expecting to win every day.”

Pillar: Home run ball was “right in my wheelhouse” – Video – TSN

Kevin Pillar hit one of three fifth-inning home runs for the Jays, as Toronto held on to win Game 2 against Texas. The Jays take a 2-0 series lead back to Toronto where Pillar knows the fans will be excited.

Jays’ bullpen could be losing the arms race: Griffin | Toronto Star

In fact, the Liriano injury draws parallels to a serious loss in last year’s ALDS against the Rangers. It was also in the eighth inning of Game 2 when Brett Cecil picked Elvis Andrus off first base, then in the subsequent rundown, made the tag and stepped awkwardly to avoid Andrus, who had gone to the ground to avoid the tag.

Cecil tore a calf muscle and missed the rest of the playoffs. That absence caught up with the Jays against the Royals in the following round. Cecil had not allowed an earned run since June and the absence of a solid lefty specialist was key.

Heading into this series, the Jays made what now looks like a fortuitous move for the first round, leaving speedy outfielder Dalton Pompey off the 25-man roster and carrying an extra reliever, right-hander Ryan Tepera. In Friday’s ninth inning, with questions of his shoulder still hanging over Osuna and the possibility the Jays would have to turn to someone else to close if Osuna tweaked something, Gibbons had Tepera and Aaron Loup warming.

With Liriano gone indefinitely, Gibbons will be forced to begin really managing his late-inning matchups and game situations, flipping coins, rolling dice, maybe a little rock-paper-scissors, before handing the ninth inning over to Osuna, if he can hold up to the workload for another three weeks.

It used to be simpler for Gibbons. The blueprint: the starter pitches six quality innings, then Benoit enters in the seventh, Jason Grilli handles the eighth and Osuna closes in the ninth. It was a formula that most nights worked well.

Right now, Gibbons has four available relievers in whom he has showed any high-leverage trust — Osuna, Jason Grilli, Joe Biagini and Cecil. The other three men in the pen, Scott Feldman, Tepera and Loup . . . well, not so much.

Starting pitching letting Rangers down – Video – TSN

ESPN’s Doug Glanville pinpoints the Rangers’ starting pitching as the main reason they are down 0-2 to the Blue Jays in the American League Division Series.

Good News: Francisco Liriano has been cleared to fly back to Toronto with the Blue Jays (also Boston lost) | JaysNation

Less awesome is the news on Devon Travis, who Ben Nicholson-Smith writes about at Sportsnet. In it we learn that the second baseman, who is currently day-to-day, received a cortisone shot (or at least I assume that’s what they mean by “a shot”), but his injured knee didn’t respond to it. “I don’t know what’s going on,” Travis said, “I just know that it hurts.”

Right now Ryan Goins isn’t on the Jays’ playoff roster, meaning that they’re a little thin in the middle infield — depth that almost looked like it was going to have to be tested after Darwin Barney took a pitch to the ribs on Friday. Thing is: by MLB postseason roster rules, if the Jays were to bring on Goins as an injury replacement for Travis, Devon would be ineligible for the remainder of the Texas series and the ALCS, should the Jays make it that far.

Blue Jays’ Devon Travis doubtful for Game 3 with knee injury | Toronto Star

He was expected to undergo an MRI in Toronto either late Friday night or Saturday morning.

“We’re just going to have to go day-by-day, see how he is tomorrow,” manager John Gibbons said.

Darwin Barney filled in at second base, while outfielder Ezequiel Carrera hit in Travis’s usual leadoff spot in the batting order.

Travis, who led the Jays with a .300 batting average, can be replaced on the roster by backup infielder Ryan Goins, but would then be ineligible for not only the remainder of this series but also the league championship if the Jays make it that far.

Travis said he had some mild discomfort in his knee earlier this season, but not enough to even mention it to the training staff. Friday’s pain is new, he said. “Real new . . . I don’t know what happened, but something happened.”

Like Goins, Mississauga’s Dalton Pompey, who served in a key pinch-running role in last year’s post-season, was also left off the ALDS roster. With Roberto Osuna forced to leave Tuesday’s wild-card game with shoulder tightness, the Jays felt an extra bullpen arm was more important than a pinch-running specialist, so they couldn’t afford the “luxury” of Pompey. With Osuna earning a five-out save on Friday and looking healthy, perhaps Pompey could find his way back onto the roster if the Jays advance to the championship series.

Travis says he’s in pain, status for Game 3 up in the air – Video – TSN

Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis talks about having to be scratched from Game 2 with an injured knee, describes how much pain he is in, and says he isn’t sure right now about his status for Game 3.

Injury Updates: Travis, Liriano – Bluebird Banter

Liriano was cleared to fly home with the team. Very good news.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats 2016 Report, Part 4: Hitters – Blue Jays from Away

I’ve already written a lot about Rowdy Tellez. The 21-year-old first baseman made huge strides with the bat over the course of the season, improving each month after a decent April and finishing with an absolutely incredible August (.333/.406/.640, 10 2B, 8 HR). He also made strides at first base, improving his defensive abilities to the point where he is no longer considered a liability. Tellez finished his season with a .297/.387/.530 slash line, hitting 29 doubles, two triples and 23 home runs for the Fisher Cats and showed a lot of patience by walking in 12.3% of his plate appearances and striking out in only 17.9% (quite low for someone who hits with his kind of power). Rowdy is fulfilling his potential to the point where we can talk about his joining the major league team within a year or two. Rowdy will play for a month in the Dominican Republic this offseason and will likely open 2017 in Buffalo (although if Edwin doesn’t return, he could be the DH in Toronto, too).

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