In last year’s ALDS playoffs, Texas pitcher Derek Holland made a few enemies at the Rogers Centre when a fan threw a white towel on the field and the Rangers lefty pretended to wipe his rear end with it.
On Thursday night, Holland could have used that towel to wave — as a gesture of surrender.
Blow outs have been few and far between this season for the Toronto Blue Jays, but they managed one on Thursday night at the expense of Holland, hammering the Rangers starter for 11 runs on 11 hits in 2⅔ innings en route to a 12-2 win — Toronto’s first double-digit run total of the season in their 30th game. Last year, the Jays posted six double-digit run totals in their first 30 games.
Thursday’s victory marked the Jays’ third straight at home and brought their record back to .500 (15-15) while Texas fell to 15-14.
“We’ve been waiting on that outburst,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We really did what we do best tonight.
“We were a little strapped tonight in the bullpen, so it gave those guys the night off,” Gibbons added. “Games like this always help. It gives us a little breather. The last few games have been so intense, even going back to those games down in Tampa, they were all low-scoring, grind-it-out games.”
Edwin Encarnacion continued to swing a hot bat, picking up three hits, including his fifth home run of the season (tying George Bell for fifth on the club’s all-time homers list with 202), with six RBI and a walk.
Centre fielder Kevin Pillar also had another big night, smacking a pair of doubles and a single with two RBI — now having hit safely in 10 of his past 12 games while hitting .409 over that stretch.
Every Toronto starter, with the exception of Jose Bautista, who had two walks, picked up at least one hit. None of the Jays struck out either, which was something Gibbons was very happy to see.
The offensive explosion overshadowed another solid outing by starter J.A. Happ, who ran his season record to 4-0 with a seven-inning, six hit, one-run performance. The left-hander walked one batter and struck out five. Happ has now made eight straight quality starts, dating back to Sept. 28, 2015.
The Rangers jumped ahead 1-0 in the first when Prince Fielder singled home Adrian Beltre from second. With the count 0-2, Fielder took a pitch from Happ that looked to be a strike, but home plate umpire Sean Barber called it ball. Two pitches later, Fielder hit his single, though Beltre did advance to second earlier on a Happ wild pitch.
But after that, Happ shut the Rangers down over the next six innings.
“Those aren’t easy games to pitch in when they turn lop-sided,” said Gibbons. “Some guys will lose that edge a little bit, (Happ) never did.
“I was saying earlier, it’s the Rangers over there and they can put up the same numbers that we did, they’re very capable. So I did try to keep the same edge and be aggressive and attack and get strike one, and I was able to do that for the most part,” Happ added.
Gibbons said Happ’s consistency has been impressive this season.
“He’s just much more consistent than the last time we had him,” the manager said. “He was good then, but he’s just seemed to have figured it out, taking that next step, the consistency in the strike zone, he used to run into problems scattering the ball every now and then. You don’t see that much anymore. And when he misses, it’s usually down.”
The Jays answered in a hurry in the bottom of the first.
Holland loaded the bases with none out before Encarnacion hit a double to the wall bringing home Pillar, Josh Donaldson and Bautista.
Justin Smoak then hit a deep fly to right to send Encarnacion to third and Russell Martin brought him home with a single to centre.
The hits kept coming, as Ezequiel Carrera, starting at left in place of Michael Saunders, hit a single to centre to score Martin, making the score 5-1.
After the Carrera hit, Texas manager Jeff Banister had Cesar Ramos warming up in the bullpen.
The Jays loaded the bases again in the third with one out, thanks partly to inept defence by the Rangers infielders. Pillar then hit a double to left, scoring Troy Tulowitzki and Darwin Barney. Bautista then hit a grounder to third to score Carerra. And then to cap it off, Encarnacion smashed a home run to left centre to score Donaldson and Bautista, putting the Jays ahead 11-1 — finally chasing Holland out of the game.
The good times kept rolling for the Jays in the eighth, when first baseman Justin Smoak picked up his first hit of the night — a single to right off reliever Phil Klein — to score Donaldson from second.