The 2015 American League East Division Championship banner rose to the rafters, and just like that, 22 years of waiting was over. Talks of the 1992 and 1993 World Series champions were put on hold and a new generation of success was born. No more comparisons for the time being, just one team, with one goal.
Nobody told the Texas Rangers, who took game one of the ALDS 5-3.
On eleven days rest, David Price (9-1, 2.30 ERA) took to the mound with 49,000 strong behind him. He worked quickly in the first despite back-to-back walks. After giving Adrian Beltre a free pass, Price used a high fastball to get Prince Fielder to roll over and ground into a double play to finish the threat. Nobody knew at the time, but the slide Beltre made to try and break up the throw tweaked his back and ended up costing the Rangers.
Yovani Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA) is not your typical first man out of the rotation, but he has been a Toronto slayer this year. In 13.2 innings pitched against the Blue Jays, the 29-year-old right-hander had yet to allow an earned run. Gallardo made some mistakes leaving pitches over the plate in the first, but neither Revere, Donaldson, or Bautista could capitalize. Gallardo was perfect through three innings while pitching to contact and, surprisingly, did not create a swing and miss until the fourth inning.
Observing the first two frames it looked as if the game was headed for a pitchers duel. Texas used the hit-and-run effectively not once, but twice in the inning. First, Rangers Manager Jeff Banister moved Rougned Odor into scoring position after getting beaned by Price with a 0-1 curveball. Delino DeShields took a fastball up the middle while avoiding a moving Ryan Goins to score the first run of the game. DeShields used his speed to steal second on yet another hit-and-run play before Adrian Beltre took his final swing of the game to score him with a line drive single. 2-0 Rangers. Beltre, who has had a history of injuries, would further tweak his back on the hack. The 36-year-old trotted out of the dugout to play third the following inning before the training staff was forced to take him to the dressing room.
Adrian Beltre is incredible. Drives in a run with eight fingers and no back; argues to stay in the game when he can barely walk.
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) October 8, 2015
The Blue Jays would respond in the fourth. Ben Revere lead off the inning with a chopper shot right over Gallardo’s head and into centrefield. Josh Donaldson would follow up with a five pitch walk before Jose Bautista would ground out to leave runners on the corners. The star third baseman would break up the double play, but took a knee to the head in the process. It was later reported that he passed all concussion protocols and should be available for tomorrows game. Edwin Encarnacion, the man with one of the hardest swing in baseball, would put new third baseman, Hanser Alberto, to work with a weak ground ball that was mishandled to score their first run of the game. 2-1 Rangers. Gallardo’ scoreless streak against the Blue Jays ended at 17 innings.
Price carried his struggles into the frame after hitting Rougned Odor for the second time in the tilt. Both times he came around to score. Robinson Chirinos, who hit 10 home runs during the regular season, would cash in Odor with a two run bomb to left field. Toronto trailed 4-1.
The Blue Jays just wouldn’t go away. After a lead off double from Canadian Russell Martin, Goins worked a 1-2 ground ball to the right side to move him over. Kevin Pillar would then capitalize on a hanging breaking ball to drive one into the right centre gap and cut the lead in half once again to make it 4-2. The biggest story from this inning was Ezequial Carrera stepping in to the batters box instead of MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. He was removed for precautionary reasons after the knee to the top of his head.
Yovanni Gallardo was pulled in favour of right-hander Keone Kela (2.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). Gallardo had not reached six innings in his last seven starts. Jose Bautista, who waited more than 1400 games to play in the postseason would greet the relief pitcher with a two strike deep shot to left field to bring the Blue Jays within one.
It was Rougned Odor who kept the big offenses going with a solo bomb to right field. Odor only saw four pitches at this point after getting beaned twice. Price threw a cutter that crossed the heart of the plate and Odor made no mistake to give the Rangers a 5-3 advantage. The eight and nine hitters for the Rangers had a huge game in terms of production. Odor and Chiniros scored four runs, while driving in three with two home runs.
From there it was the big lefty Jake Diekman (4.01 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) who cruised through his two innings of work with zero hits and one strikeout.
In the top of the frame, you could hear a collective gasp from the Toronto crowd as star outfielder Jose Bautista was unable to take his position in right field. But good news came soon after. Ken Rosenthal reported that both Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista should be able to go by tomorrow. Bautista left with mild hamstring tightness. No word on Adrian Beltre.
The game finished with Sam Dyson on the mound, Encarnacion would manage a single but it wouldn’t be enough as Texas took game one right out of Toronto’s hands.
7IP, 5H, 5ER, 2BB, 5K, 2HR
He had been one of the best pitchers in baseball coming into today, but just hasn’t been able to get the job done in the postseason. He was not sharp today, hitting two batters, and missing locations. His record sits at 1-6 through seven series, and he becomes the first pitcher in history to lose his first six postseason starts.
5.0IP, 4H, 2ER, 1BB, 1K, 1HR