Here we are again, back to Texas. Back to the site of the Jays’ turnaround in the ALDS last year. Back to the site of the infamous Odor-Bautista punch (and subsequent brawl) this year. Back to the place where we know the Jays will get heckled and booed, none more so than Bautista.
The Blue Jays have faced these Texas Rangers seven times this season: four at home, three in Arlington. They were victorious in four of the seven games, including two walkoffs. However, the Texas team they faced back in May is looking a little different now. They acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy, as well as outfielder Carlos Gomez and slugger Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline. Rangers Game 2 starter Yu Darvish also has yet to face the Jays this year, as he was on the DL when they played in May.
To set the scene: This is a five-game series. Because Texas had the best regular-season record in the American League, that means they have home field advantage over the wild-card champion Blue Jays. The first two games will be played in Texas, the third and fourth in Toronto, the fifth (if necessary) back to Texas. The first team to three wins moves on to the ALCS and faces either Boston or Cleveland. This is a rematch of last year’s ALDS, which Toronto won with three straight wins after losing the first two games at home. That series culminated, of course, in a wild seventh inning of Game 5, and Jose Bautista‘s now-legendary bat flip.
Toronto is looking for another ALDS victory. Texas is looking for revenge. Let’s do this.
Cole Hamels works around a one-out, nine-pitch walk to Josh Donaldson to retire the top of the Blue Jays order. Devon Travis flies out in foul territory, and Edwin Encarnacion pops up to the second baseman. As expected, Jose Bautista earns some heavy boos from the assembled fans as he makes his first plate appearance, which then quickly turn to cheers as he flies out to Carlos Gomez in left.
Marco Estrada makes quick work of the first three Rangers batters, including a lineout to center on the first pitch to Ian Desmond. Gomez struck out swinging, and Carlos Beltran grounded out to second baseman Devon Travis, also on the first pitch. The game is scoreless after 1.
Russell Martin strikes out swinging, on an inside curveball, after fouling off the four previous pitches. Troy Tulowitzki pops out to shortstop Elvis Andrus, and Kevin Pillar grounds out to short – almost beating the throw to first. They review it, and he’s called out.
Adrian Beltre is the first baserunner for the Rangers, as he drops a grounder to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion but Estrada forgets to cover the base. No matter for Estrada, as he gets a flyout from Rougned Odor, strikes out Jonathan Lucroy and then gets Mitch Moreland to ground out. Still scoreless at this point, Hamels is at 29 pitches, Estrada 22.
Melvin Upton, Jr. leads off the 3rd for the Blue Jays, and flies out to right fielder Shin-Soo Choo on the warning track. Ezequiel Carrera, hitting in the 9-spot, draws a walk on five pitches, then it’s back to the top of the order as Travis flies out in foul territory again (but at least he chose the other side of the field this time). With two down and Josh Donaldson at the plate, Hamels throws a wild pitch and Carrera is able to get to second. Carrera then scores the first run of the game when Donaldson shoots a double off Beltre’s glove and into left field. Texas challenges the call on Donaldson being safe at second, as he reached the base around the same time as the throw from Gomez. It is reviewed, and he’s ruled safe.
Encarnacion reaches safely on a ball that deflects off Hamels, and Donaldson moves to third. Bautista laces a single through center, scoring Donaldson. This inning is beginning to get interesting – even more so when Martin walks to load the bases. But the highlight is yet to come – Troy Tulowitzki drives a ball to center field that somehow confuses Desmond, who looks up for it and then stops just short of the wall. The ball falls in, untouched, and three runs score (Martin, not so gracefully). Tulowitzki ends up a third. It is the first bases-clearing triple in franchise postseason history.
A Twitter user comments that, were he in Desmond’s place, Kevin Pillar would have run right through the wall. They’re probably right. Pillar then grounds out to the mound to end the inning. Hamels threw 42 pitches to nine different batters in the frame. That’s the most he’s ever thrown in one inning in his career – his pitch count for the day is now at 71.
Looking to get some runs back, Texas sends Andrus, Choo and Gomez to the plate. Estrada makes short work of them, getting a groundout, a strikeout looking on Choo, and a flyout to center. He leaves the field with a 5-run lead intact.
Upton leads off again, and not to be left out of the run-scoring fun, he hits a homer to left field. After Carrera flies out, Travis reaches safely on a throwing error by Elvis Andrus. He gets to second on a passed ball, and then scored on a Josh Donaldson single. That calls for Hamels’ removal from the game, having thrown 3.1 innings, allowed seven runs (six earned) on six hits and three walks. He threw 81 pitches. For comparison, Marcus Stroman threw the same number of pitches in the Wild Card game – over six innings.
Alex Claudio replaces Hamels, getting Encarnacion and Bautista to both fly out.
Estrada continues dealing, getting a groundout from Desmond (which Tulowitzki makes an impressive play on), a flyout from Beltran and another groundout from Beltre. It occurs to me that having Beltran-Beltre back to back in the lineup must be annoying for announcers. It also occurs to me that Estrada hasn’t allowed a baserunner other than Beltre’s infield ‘single’ in the second.
Troy Tulowitzki singles, but Martin, Pillar and Upton all ground out.
Estrada’s extreme fly-ball tendencies are on display in an 11-pitch inning where he gets two flyouts and a pop-out.
Carrera leads off the inning with a walk, but then Devon Travis grounds out to the pitcher to set off a double play (for the third time in the postseason). Donaldson doubles, but is left at second when Encarnacion flies out to Carlos Gomez, who makes a ridiculous catch against the wall. Claudio is through two and two thirds without allowing a run, but his team is still trailing 7-0.
Andrus singles to lead off the bottom half – only the second Rangers hit of the game – then he’s caught stealing second in a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play by Russell Martin as Estrada whiffs Choo on a changeup with a full count. Estrada then strikes out Gomez on a similar pitch.
— Alykhan K. Ravjiani (@AlykhanKR) October 6, 2016
Bautista leads things off with a four-pitch walk, then Martin flies out in foul territory and Tulowitzki grounds into the second double play of the game, again started by the pitcher.
After Desmond flies out to center, the Blue Jays get to turn a double play of their own, erasing a Beltran single in a 6-4-3 DP off the bat of Beltre. Estrada has faced just one batter over the minimum, has thrown 87 pitches, and has a 7-0 lead.
The TBS announcers sing the praises of Claudio as he is replaced with Tony Barnette. Barnette allows a two-out single to Carrera, but that’s all.
Estrada gets an infield pop-up from Odor, then strikes out Lucroy on three pitches and Moreland flies out. Still to allow a run, he’s also allowed one hit fewer than Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card game the night before. Bumgarner threw a complete game shutout on four hits, and two walks. To this point, Estrada hasn’t allowed a walk.
Jake Diekman enters the game, and gives up two singles right away to Donaldson and Encarnacion. By this point in the game, and his fifth plate appearance, the few Rangers fans remaining have pretty much forgotten to boo Jose Bautista. Until he gives them a 3-run, 425-foot good reason to.
He then lays his bat gently on the ground before trotting around the bases, which won’t go unnoticed. Martin strikes out, and then a Tulowitzki single and Upton walk are stranded. 10-0 Blue Jays, and Estrada is out to try and throw one more inning.
Estrada’s quest for a shutout comes to a shuddering halt when he allows a leadoff triple to Elvis Andrus, and Andrus then scores on a Shin-Soo Choo groundout. Nobody on the Blue Jays staff has thrown a complete game this year. In fact, they became the first team ever to do this while not having an opponent throw a complete game against them, either. Estrada has never thrown a CG in his career. Nobody wants John Gibbons to remove him from the game, least of all Marco-u himself who can be seen saying ‘I got this’ as Gibbons nears the mound. His protests fall on deaf ears. He’s out, Ryan Tepera is in.
A quick groundout and a flyout later, and the game is over, giving the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the ALDS, Estrada his first postseason win of the year. Hamels takes the loss. The Jays are also undefeated in the month of October, following a pair of wins in Boston to end the regular season, and their victory in the Wild Card Game Tuesday. The Jays had 13 hits and 6 walks, the Rangers 4 and 0.
Bautista gave a post-game scrum where he was quizzed at length about his understated reaction to the home run.
“I have a couple HRs in my careers and I think I’ve only flipped it once.” – José
Marco’s facial expression is priceless. pic.twitter.com/6ggxTi7G5K
— Daryl (@ateDARYL) October 7, 2016
That was a fun one! Obviously, winning postseason games are sweet to begin with, but when you factor in who they were playing, and the fact that it was such a blowout, and Bautista’s home run… Definitely couldn’t have picked a better note to start the series on.
Although, maybe this game was too easy and now we should be worried about Game 2?? … Nah.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
I already mentioned that Tulowitzki’s bases-clearing triple was the first in Blue Jays postseason history, but there were a few more ‘firsts’ and ‘never seen before’s today:
- Josh Donaldson had the first playoff 4-hit game for a Jays player since Roberto Alomar in 1993
- The 9-run margin was the largest victory for a Jays playoff game in team history
- Jose Bautista has tied Joe Carter for the most playoff home runs in team history (6)
- Estrada has the best playoff ERA (2.67) in team history for pitchers with more than 20 innings thrown
Game 1 MVP: Marco Estrada
Honourable mention goes to Josh Donaldson, who impressively reached base in all five of his plate appearances – a walk, two singles, two doubles – and also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs.
But Estrada is the clear story here. He would’ve been perfect through five if it wasn’t for his own mental error in the 2nd. He faced just one batter over the minimum for eight innings, didn’t walk anybody and didn’t allow anyone to even reach second base until the 9th. It was pretty heartbreaking to see him give up that one run, and then be lifted from the game. You could tell, just by looking at him afterwards, how disappointed he was.
This is a man who’s taken four no-hitters (one of them a perfect game) into the 7th inning or later in the past two years. I’ve never seen him as disappointed after any of those starts as he was after being pulled from this one. He’s repeatedly said things to the effect of ‘I just want to finish a game’. It put a bit of a damper on the end of what was a very fun and exciting game for the Jays.
And yes, the offense was at its best, but even if they hadn’t been Estrada would have kept them in the game. A byproduct of his deep start was that they didn’t need to use any relievers other than Tepera (Roberto Osuna may have been unavailable anyways) and therefore have a well-rested bullpen for Game 2.
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