ARLINGTON, Texas — Toronto rocked Cole Hamels for five runs in the third inning and a near flawless Marco Estrada delivered 8 1/3 strong innings as the Blue Jays thumped the Texas Rangers 10-1 Thursday to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Jose Bautista, Public Enemy No. 1 in Texas, slammed a three-run homer in the ninth inning off reliever Jake Diekman to rub salt in the wound. He put his bat down gently after the blast to left field, where the fan who caught the ball whipped it back into the field.
It was Bautista's fourth home run in his last eight post-season at-bats. He is tied with Joe Carter for most playoff homers by a Blue Jay with six.
Toronto came close to its first complete game of the season — and the first of Estrada's career. But Elvis Andrus tripled to open the bottom of the ninth and came in on a Shin-Soo Choo's groundout. Manager John Gibbons then brought in Ryan Tepera.
Jose Bautista celebrates with Edwin Encarnacion on Oct. 6. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Estrada (1-0) gave up one run in 8 1/3 innings on four hits with six strikeouts in a 98-pitch performance with 72 strikes.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Friday.
The Jays sent nine men to the plate in the third, scoring all five runs — all with two outs. Troy Tulowitzki did the bulk of the damage with a three-run triple.
"In reality we were due to break out ? Can't say we necessarily relaxed, but it was kind of nice to have a game where you will have a little breathing room, because we haven't had too many of those lately,'' Gibbons said.
Rangers manager Jeff Bannister said he does not expect any fallout from the one-sided loss.
Melvin Upton Jr. hit a solo homer in a two-run fourth for Toronto. Josh Donaldson, who had two singles, two doubles and a walk on the day, drove in a run in each of the third and fourth. His four hits tied a club post-season mark.
The Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits a three-run home run in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS. (Photo: Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
While Hamels (0-1) wobbled in 3 1/3 innings, Estrada was rock-steady, retiring 15 of the first 16 batters he faced. The only Ranger to get on during that stretch was Adrian Beltre, on a second-inning infield hit that saw first baseman Edwin Encarnacion make the play only to find no one was covering first.
Estrada retired 12 straight after Beltre before Andrus singled to open the Texas half of the sixth. Andrus was promptly caught stealing as Choo struck out — it was that kind of day for the Rangers.
The 33-year-old right-hander faced just one batter over the minimum over eight innings, helping ease the load of a Toronto bullpen that was looking to rest closer Roberto Osuna and his sore shoulder.
Toronto outhit Texas 13-4.
"Given how our club has played all year long, and we've been in these type of situations before, look, we've come back and played well after these type of games," Bannister said. "And with the veteran group that we have in there, I don't worry about the collateral damage in a game like this. Obviously we would have liked to have played a lot more competitively. But the other thing that you've got to look at, too, is Estrada threw a heck of a game."
The Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits a three-run home run. (Photo: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
Estrada started the Jays' ALDS comeback in 2015, winning Game 3 backed by a four-RBI performance by Tulowitzki.
It was 32 degrees under the sun at first pitch before a sellout crowd of 47,434 that had little to cheer about at Globe Life Park.
Thursday's game marked the first meeting of the teams since a wild game on May 15 in Texas. Baseball gave way to payback as Bautista was hit by a pitch and then clocked in the face by a Rougned Odor right hook when the second baseman objected to the Jays slugger's hard slide. The ensuing brawl resulted in discipline against 14 players and staff.
The Rangers were still seething at Bautista's three-run homer, complete with bat-flip, which served as the coup de grace in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS.
Hamels was the loser that day despite the fact that reliever Sam Dyson gave up the homer.
"I'm not looking for revenge," Bautista said this week. "I'm looking to win ballgames. That's entirely what my focus is on. And hopefully, I get to keep it there."
Bautista, who drew boos throughout the day, got a little payback Thursday by helping the scoreboard keep ticking in the third.
"I'm looking to win ballgames. That's entirely what my focus is on. And hopefully, I get to keep it there."
The lone blemish on Hamels' line in the first two innings was an early walk to Donaldson. But the bottom fell out in the third on the 2008 World Series MVP.
Ezequiel Carrera walked with one out, went to second on a wild pitch and came home one out later on a Donaldson screamer that went off Beltre's glove at third and into right field. Donaldson, whose slide into second on the play survived a Texas challenge, went to third on an Encarnacion hit that deflected off Hamels' glove.
Bautista's RBI single, after an eight-pitch at-bat, made it 2-0. A Russell Martin walk loaded the bases before Tulowitzki cleared them with a triple that centre-fielder Ian Desmond lost near the wall. The ball left Tulowitzki's bat at 102 m.p.h. and travelled 395 feet.
It was Tulowitzki's first post-season triple — and the first by a Blue Jay in 23 years (Paul Molitor, October 1993).
Hamels, who is making US$23.5 million this season, needed 42 pitches to get out of the inning. Estrada threw a total of 44 in his first four innings.
Troy Tulowitzki of the Toronto Blue Jays bats against the Texas Rangers during the third inning in game one of the American League Divison Series. (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
The beatdown continued in the sixth as Upton deposited an 0-2 delivery over the left-field fence to make it 6-0. Donaldson's RBI single added to the total, sending home Devon Travis who had got to second on an Andrus throwing error and passed ball.
Hamels was then mercifully pulled. He gave up seven runs (six earned) in 3 1/3 innings on six hits with three walks and one strikeout in an 82-pitch outing that featured 56 strikes.
It was Hamels' first start against Toronto since last season's playoffs.
The 32-year-old left-hander had never beaten the Blue Jays (0-4 in his career including the post-season).
Texas finished as the top seed in the AL with a 95-67 record that included a franchise-record 53 home wins. Toronto had to beat Baltimore in the wild-card game after ending up the fourth seed at 89-73.
Only the Chicago Cubs (103-59) had a better record in the majors than Texas and the Washington Nationals, who were also 95-67.
A quality outfit, the Rangers finished with a 60-31 (.659) record against teams that ended with a .500 or better record to lead the majors this season. Texas was also 36-11 (.766) in one-run games, the highest winning percentage by any team in one-run decisions in the modern era (since 1901).
Still the Jays won the season series with Texas 4-3. The Rangers are 8-18 versus Toronto in the regular season since the start of 2013.