ARLINGTON, Texas — Marco Estrada and Troy Tulowitzki threw Toronto a lifeline Sunday night as the Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers 5-1 to stay alive in their American League Division Series.
Estrada limited the Rangers to one run over 6 1/3 innings and Tulowitzki, who had been hitless in the series, drove in four runs — including a three-run homer in the sixth to cut Texas' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five series.
Tulowitzki's four RBI's are the most by a Jay in the post-season since Joe Carter's four in clinching the 1993 World Series. The franchise post-season record is five by Tony Fernandez in 1993.
The Jays plan all hands on deck in another must-win game Monday, with starting pitchers David Price and Marcus Stroman both available to come out of the bullpen if needed to back up veteran knuckleballer R.A Dickey against Rangers starter Derek Holland.
Price warmed up in the bullpen in the seventh, when the Rangers finally got on the board.
Roberto Osuna pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the Toronto win.
While Estrada mowed down one batter after another, the Jays' offence was squandering chance after chance early on a steamy 33-degree Celsius night at Globe Life Park, with a sellout crowd of 50,941 in Rangers red and blue.
Toronto grounded into five double plays, a franchise record for the post-season. The previous mark was two.
It seemed like another Houdini-like escape for Texas in the sixth, with a bases-loaded threat with no outs looking like it might fizzle after yet another double play denied the Jays by removing the lead runner. But Tulowitzki, 0-for-11 in the series up until then, slammed the ball 367 feet into right field for a 5-0 lead.
Estrada, meanwhile, cooly retired the first eight batters he faced and 12 of the first 13. He allowed just three Rangers on base in the first six innings, on a double and two singles.
He struck out four and walked none in a typically efficient 89-pitch outing that featured 57 strikes.
Estrada had little margin for error as the Jays offence, despite a slew of chances, only backed him with single runs in the third and fourth inning until Tulowitzki's first post-season hit as a Jay.
Estrada left with one out in the seventh after yielding two singles. A groundout off Aaron Loup scored a run for Texas, before Mark Lowe snuffed out the inning.
Josh Donaldson, whose jawing with Rangers pitcher Keona Kela led to the benches emptying in Game 2, drew boos when he came to the plate in the first inning. But he answered the fans in the bottom of the inning with a fine running foul catch at the seats.
Nobody made it on base in the first two innings, with Toronto's Kevin Pillar pulling down an Elvis Andrus blast in the second just before he crashed into the padded wall in deep centre.
After two scoreless innings, Toronto got to Texas starter Martin Perez in the third, fourth and fifth innings. But the Jays managed just two runs, with double plays in all three innings limiting the threats.
Catcher Dioner Navarro doubled to centre field to open the third and moved to third on Pillar's single and scored on Ryan Goins' double-play groundout for a 1-0 lead.
Donaldson doubled to open the fourth and moved to third on Jose Bautista's sacrifice fly. After an intentional walk to Edwin Encarnacion, Perez issued back-to back walks to Chris Colabello and Tulowitzki to bring in a run. Navarro hit into a double play to limit the damage after a 33-pitch inning.
Pillar opened the fifth by getting to second on a single and fielding error. Ryan Goins' bunt got him to third Goins but was doubled up at third on Ben Revere's broken bat lineout.
Singles by Donaldson and Bautista to open the sixth chased Perez. A 10-pitch walk to Encarnacion by reliever Chi Chi Gonzalez loaded the base with no outs. Encarnacion was dispatched going home as Colabello hit into yet another double play.
Then Tulowitzki kick-started the offence on a 3-2 pitch off Gonzalez. It marked the Jays' third all-time three-run homer in the playoffs, joining Candy Maldonado in the 1992 AL Championship Series and Joe Carter's winning blast in the 1993 World Series.
Estrada (13-8 with a 3.13 ERA) led the majors by holding opponents to hitting .183 after the all-star break and ranked fourth over the whole season at .203.
Sunday marked the 32-year-old's first playoff start after four relief appearances for Milwaukee in 2011.
Perez, 3-6 with a 4.46 ERA this season, was making his first post-season start. It lasted five innings, with the Venezuelan giving up four runs on six hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
History was not on Toronto's side going into Sunday's game.
Going into Sunday's contest, home teams that lost the first two legs of a five-game playoff series _ including League Championship Series _ were 2-27 according to Elias Sports. Teams that lost the first two games of a Division Series were 5-42.
Still the last time Toronto had lost three in a row was July 8-10, more than 70 games ago.
The Jays evened their career post-season record at 22-22.