TORONTO — Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor homered off ace David Price as the Texas Rangers defeated the Blue Jays 5-3 in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, spoiling the Blue Jays' long-awaited return to the post-season.
A sellout crowd of 43,894, waving rally towels, lived and died with every pitch under the roof at the Rogers Centre, which last saw playoff action in 1993 when the Jays won a second straight World Series.
The underdog Rangers struck from an unlikely source. The bottom of the Texas order took its toll on Price, who was inconsistent pitching on 11 days rest.
Odor, a 21-year-old from Venezuela who bats eighth before Chirinos, is the second-youngest player to score three runs in a post-season game, according to ESPN Stats. Only Andruw Jones in the 1996 World Series was younger.
Both teams lost key players during the game, with Jays' MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and right-fielder Jose Bautista and Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre leaving early with injuries.
Toronto said Donaldson, dinged in the head breaking up a double play, had cleared the concussion protocol and would be evaluated Friday. Bautista was said to have a hamstring cramp and is not expected to miss any more action.
Bautista homered deep to left-centre off reliever Keone Kela to open the bottom of the sixth, cutting the Texas lead to 4-3. The Jays slugger paused to admire his first-ever post-season blast then trotted around the bases.
One hitter later, Edwin Encarnacion almost repeated the feat but his blast went just foul.
Odor's line-drive homer to right in the seventh made it 5-3, hushing the crowd after Bautista's homer.
Price, who gave way to Brett Cecil after seven innings, gave up five earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks. He threw 90 pitches, 59 for strikes.
Price, who did not hit a batter as a Jay during the regular season, hit Odor twice in five innings - a Toronto playoff record. Both times the Texas second baseman came home to score.
For all his regular-season exploits, Price is 1-6 in the playoffs.
Hard-throwing Sam Dyson pitched the ninth for Texas, hitting 98 m.p.h. Encarnacion opened with a single but the Jays came up short.
Texas only won two of six games with Toronto this season and Yovani Gallardo was on the mound for both. He started strongly Thursday, retiring the first nine Jays he faced before exiting after five innings with a 4-2 lead.
Donaldson did not bat in the fifth after being hurt in the fourth. Toronto said Donaldson, who kept a Jays rally alive by sacrificing his body, was pulled as a precaution.
Beltre, injured sliding into second base in the first inning, left after the third with what was called lower back stiffness.
Bautista did not come out for the ninth, and TV showed a trainer leading him out of the dugout back to the clubhouse.
Price walked two batters in the first inning but escaped with a double play. The big man settled down in the second inning, striking out the side.
A hit batter came back to haunt Price in the third after a groundout and RBI single by Delino DeShields brought Odor home. DeShields advanced on a groundout and scored on a Beltre single to make it 2-0.
Beltre pulled up running to first base and did not reappear, replaced by Hanser Alberto. The injury would carry a price for the Rangers.
Gallardo was perfect in his first three innings, extending his scoreless streak against Toronto to 16 2/3 innings this season.
Toronto's Ben Revere singled to open the fourth to get the crowd going. Donaldson walked and Bautista worked a 3-2 count then grounded out to third. Donaldson broke up the double play at second, losing his batting helmet and grimacing as he got up.
That kept the inning alive and Alberto was unable to bare-hand Encarnacion's slow grounder, allowing Revere to score from third to cut the lead to 2-1. That ended Gallardo's scoreless streak against the Jays this season at 16 2/3 innings.
Price hit Odor again to open the fifth and Chirinos dropped a ball just over the left-centre fence to up the lead to 4-1. He had 10 homers during the regular season.
A Russell Martin double and Kevin Pillar single made it 4-2.
The contest featured a matchup of the two highest-scoring teams in baseball since the all-star break (405 runs for Toronto, 381 for Texas). Toronto went 40-18 and Texas 38-22 since the start of August.
While Toronto (93-69) was making its return to the post-season after more than two decades, Texas (88-74) has made it four of the last six years. Still the Rangers' ride this season is noteworthy, given they were last in the American League last year at 67-95 and they opened this season at 7-14.
"They counted us out in April but today we start the post-season," the Rangers tweeted prior to Thursday's game with their signature NeverEverQuit hashtag.
There was plenty of pre-game hoopla, with the "2015 AL East Champs" pennant unfurled high in the rafters.
Cito Gaston, who managed the Jays to back-to-back World Series the last time Toronto was in the playoffs, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. And there was another tie to the glory days with the Canadian anthem - a recording of the late Michael Burgess from the 1992 World Series played as members of the military manned a giant Canadian flag in the outfield.
The roof remained closed, however, despite 15 degree temperatures on a pleasant fall afternoon that came with a 20 per cent chance of precipitation. Major League Baseball decides the roof status in the post-season.
The Jays bandwagon is stretching far and wide.
The Royal Ontario Museum bathed a dinosaur skeleton in blue. Ottawa city hall raised a Jays flag, as did Canada's embassy in Washington, D.C. The Vancouver Canucks, Curling Canada and Hockey Canada were among those sending best wishes.
"It's been unreal. The love that we've been getting from Toronto, from all of Canada has been unbelievable," Game 2 pitcher Marcus Stroman said. "I feel like we feed off that energy that the country brings us. And we're excited to get out there and kind of put the country on our back, and play for an entire nation."
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