ARLINGTON, Texas — Toronto used the long ball to batter Texas starter Yu Darvish and then hung on for a 5-3 victory over the Rangers on Friday afternoon to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
Texas outhit the Jays 13-6 but the Rangers paid for taking a knife to a gunfight, spraying singles while the Jays swung for the fences. Texas left 13 men on base.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer in the second inning while Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion added solo shots – all in the fifth – for Toronto.
“Four home runs, four unexecuted pitches,” lamented Rangers manager Jeff Banister.
Still there were some nervy moments as Texas mounted a comeback in the eighth, scoring twice before closer Roberto Osuna – back in action after a slight shoulder issue – got the two outs needed to extinguish the threat.
The white-knuckle ride continued in the ninth when Adrian Beltre doubled off the left-field wall, with the ball bouncing back between outfielder Melvin Upton’s legs. Osuna ended the drama with a strikeout, popout and flyout to cap a 31-pitch outing for his save.
The Blue Jays return home, sitting pretty with AL ERA leader Aaron Sanchez set to throw Sunday night at the Rogers Centre. While the champagne may be chilling, they will remember that Texas won the first two games of the 2015 ALDS series on the road before losing the next three.
Facing a quality pitcher in Darvish (0-1) on Friday, the Jays took manager John Gibbons’ pre-game comments on Japanese pitchers to heart.
“If you get a mistake or two, you would be wise to do something because you know you’re not going to get that many of them really,” he said.
Tulowitzki did just that with a 2-0 pitch in the second. Pillar, Carrera and Encarnacion then made Darvish pay again and again and again in a Groundhog Day-type fifth.
The ball the six-foot Pillar hit was four foot two inches off the ground, according to Statcast. Only two balls higher were hit for home runs all season.
The sellout crowd of 48,019 at Globe Life Park crowd, silenced by a five-run third inning in Toronto’s 10-1 blowout win Thursday, spent much of the game sitting on its hands again.
Toronto starter J.A. Happ (1-0) bent but did not break before leaving in the sixth, pitching out of a ton of trouble after giving up nine hits – all singles.
In contrast, the Rangers left two men on in each of the first three innings. Happ’s Houdini-like escapes finally failed him in the fourth when he gave up one run on three straight singles with two outs. Ian Desmond’s RBI single put Texas on the board.
Pillar got that run back with one swing in the fifth, sending a ball 370 feet. One out later, Carrera went 18 feet farther to right-centre for a 4-1 Toronto lead. With two outs, Encarnacion lined a ball 357 feet to left field to make it 5-1.
It marked the first time Darvish has given up four homers in a game. The four homers hit and conceded were post-season club records for both Toronto and Texas, respectively, and tied the major league record for home runs allowed in a post-season game.
The three homers in one inning set another Jays post-season mark.
The long ball barrage chased Darvish. He was replaced at the start of the sixth after yielding give runs on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts in an 84-pitch outing that featured 52 strikes.
Happ lasted five innings and one batter. He gave up nine hits with one walk and five strikeouts in a not-exactly-textbook 84-pitch (54-strike) afternoon. The fifth was his only 1-2-3 inning,
Desmond, trying to score on a grounder to third, was thrown out by Josh Donaldson at home plate in the seventh. The tag survived a challenge as the Rangers’ luck continued to be all bad.
Texas put men on first and second with one out in the eighth, scoring on Carlos Gomez’s single that lined off the side of reliever Francisco Liriano’s shoulder. The left-hander seemed fine despite the fact that the ball left Gomez’s bat at 102 m.p.h.
The play brought in Osuna, pitching for the first time since leaving in the 10th inning of Tuesday’s wild-card game complaining about his shoulder. A Desmond groundout brought in another run before Osuna struck out Carlos Beltran.
Toronto’s Devon Travis was a late scratch due to a “right knee irritation.” He was replaced at second base by Darwin Barney with Carrera moving up the batting order to take over Travis’ leadoff position.
Thanks to Marco Estrada’s fine outing in Game 1, Gibbons only needed two outs from the bullpen in the form of Ryan Tepera on Thursday.
He had to use five relievers Friday.
In stark contrast to Thursday’s toasty 32-degree conditions, Friday’s game opened to slight drizzle and 19-degree gloom.
Darvish looked lively early Friday, corkscrewing Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin with some nasty early deliveries. But he walked Jose Bautista to open the second and, one out later, Tulowitzki hammered a 96.2 m.p.h. four-seam fastball 402 feet to left-centre field with the ball leaving his bat at 105 m.p.h.
It was the fastest Darvish pitch deposited over the fence this season, according to Statcast.
Texas had men on second in the first and second innings, and runners on first and third in the third inning, but Happ extricated himself each time.
Darvish, pitching on six days rest, was coming off a season-high 12 strikeout performance against Tampa. It was the Japanese-born right-hander’s first date with the Blue Jays since 2014, when he was shut down before undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2015. He was limited to 17 starts this season.
Happ won 20 games this season for the first time in his career. The Jays went 24-8 in his starts and 65-65 in all other games.
Neil Davidson The Canadian Press via Global News | Photo: Ronald Martinez, Getty, ‘Roberto Osuna shut the Rangers down’
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