The Texas Rangers have the best offense in baseball against the ropes headed back to Arlington. After a controversial 6-4 victory in 14 innings, which was the longest in Blue Jays history, Toronto now has to win three straight or else their memorable season will fall short of expectations.
After dropping game one of the American League Division Series, the “little brother” of David Price, Marcus Stroman, took to the mound to right the ship. Since returning from a torn ACL Stroman had been dominant, going 4-0 while becoming the youngest pitcher in MLB to clinch a division. Today was his first career postseason start.
Cole Hamels sported a 7-1 record with a 3.66 ERA this season, but had been roughed up by the Blue Jays in the past. In his career against Toronto, he is 0-2 in four starts, with a 6.97 ERA, 1.935 WHIP, and six home runs allowed.
In the first it was the shaky defense that lead to two runs against Stroman and the Blue Jays. Delino DeShields lead off the game with a double that went in and out of a back-tracking Jose Bautista. The catch would have been a highlight if made, but the pressure from the wall did just enough to squeeze the ball out of his leather. The “on-base machine” Shin-Soo Choo worked a nine pitch at-bat, seeing five fastballs before sitting slider and stroking an RBI single up the middle. Choo would come around to score on a throwing error from Russell Martin after having him dead to rights at home. It took 23 pitches for Stroman to record his first out. 2-0 Rangers.
It wouldn’t take long for Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays to score their first run of the game, though. Working a full count against Hamels where he saw six pitches and four fastballs, the MVP candidate ignited the crowd blasting a change up 400 plus feet over the center field wall. 2-1 Rangers.
Rougned Odor continued to be a thorn in the Blue Jays side this series. It began with advancing first to third on a high chopper to the pitcher in the second frame. The aggressive base running was productive as Odor would score a few plays later with a crafty slide that evaded a Martin tag. At this point, Odor had scored four of eight runs for the Rangers in the series. 3-1 Texas.
Could the first two innings get any more exciting? Yes…yes they could. Chris Colabello rifled a 93 MPH fastball down the right field line for a double, bringing Martin up with a chance at redemption. He took the opportunity and ran with it. His second hit of the series was an RBI double over the head of Choo. Kevin Pillar would follow up with an RBI ground out to tie the game at three.
After a Kevin Pillar bloop, a Ryan Goins bunt, and single from Revere to take the lead in the fifth, it was all about the starting pitching. Marcus Stroman caught fire, at one point retiring 14 straight batters. His stuff looked great all game long; late movement, tight rotation, and stayed away effectively. Hamels was locked in for the Rangers as well, striking out four of five batters in the sixth and seventh innings. The hired gun also sat down nine of ten Blue Jays after Pillar scored.
Both pitchers went seven innings with 11 Ks combined.
Brett Cecil, one of the best second-half relief pitchers in baseball, if not the best, came on to pitch the eighth inning. After Choo sacrificed to move DeShield’s over, Cecil, who had not allowed an earned run since June, was able to punch out Prince Fielder (1-8 in the series). Much to the dismay of the Rogers Centre, he couldn’t strand the inherited runner. Pinch hitter Mike Napoli, who had been 2-17 against him in his career, hit a line drive single to score DeShields and tie it in the eighth inning. 4-4.
Skip all the way to the 14th inning when Texas would go on to score the controversial winning runs. With two outs, LaTroy Hawkins on the mound, many thought that Bautista successfully threw behind Rougned Odor. It does seem like the glove of Tulowitzki tagged him as his foot came off the bag, but it is the slightest bit of daylight, if any. Check for yourself.
Texas would end up scoring their fifth and six run of the ball game to steal yet another one on the road.
It may be easy to blame the umpires, but let’s remember that Toronto had more than six opportunities to win. They had no production in the back half of the ball game. One infield single in the eighth and then a Colabello single in the bottom of the 12th. Nothing else. This game wasn’t on the umpires, it was on Toronto’s inability to string anything together on offense.
Do the Blue Jays have enough in the tank to fight back? With how this postseason is going, it may not be a bad thing to be headed on the road. Home teams are 1-5 so far while being outscored 27-14. Toronto’s potent offense has yet to show up, but they have been battling, and the passion to win is still there. They go up against Martin Perez in game three, a pitcher who has had a subpar season thus far. 3-6 with a 4.46 ERA reads the stat sheet, and this just may be the perfect opportunity to jump start the struggling offense. Marco Estrada goes for Toronto, who had a 2.78 ERA since the All-Star break with an opponent batting average of .203, good for fourth in the league. The Rangers may be up 2-0, but the series is likely far from over.
Brett Cecil injury. “He got a pretty significant tear in his calf,” manager John Gibbons said after the game. “So that’s not very good.” He will most likely be out for the rest of the postseason after picking off Mike Napoli.
Josh Donaldson and relief pitcher Keone Kela clear the benches.