No one was surprised that the Toronto Blue Jays weren’t going to go down without a fight after losing the first two ALDS games at home. On Sunday night, they came out ready to beg, steal, borrow, or barter for every run they could possibly find—and this plan worked, as they took game 5-1 to send the series to Monday.
- Marco Estrada, one of the Blue Jays’ most effective second-half pitchers, didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs left in the bottom of the third, when Hanser Alberto hit a ground-rule double to direct center field. That threat was extinguished by a Delino DeShields fly ball to right, and Estrada would allow only four more hits in 6 1/3 innings. Stuff wise, Estrada was able to use the separation between his fastball and his changeup to keep the Texas hitters under control, mixing in the curveball when he needed to further confuse them.
- Martin Perez began the game with visible confidence, and that carried through until the first batter of the third inning, when Dioner Navarro hit the first pitch to deep center field for a double, the first runner Perez allowed. After that hit, Perez struggled to recover, a frustrating trend from the talented left-hander who has in the past had difficulties when bad luck or a momentary lapse in command give him issues. (Jeff Banister’s decision to intentionally walk Edwin Encarnacion later on in the inning might have played a role, too.) Perez exited in the sixth with no outs and two men on, an less-than-ideal end to what originally seemed to be a promising outing.
- On that intentional walk: Banister has intentionally walked Encarnacion twice in this series, clearly preferring to avoid the potential big moment in favor of attempting a double play. Of course, everything has to go right after the IBB to get that double play, which did not happen for Perez. Instead, the Blue Jays remembered that they led the majors in walks and set themselves up for an early lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
- One of Texas’ preseason top prospects, Chi Chi Gonzalez, entered to try to clean up Perez’s mess, facing Encarnacion with two on and no out in the sixth. Gonzalez doesn’t have much separation between his pitches, but gets exemplary movement on all of them, making him tricky to hit—particularly if a hitter hasn’t faced him before. While he walked Encarnacion, he then was able to induce a 3-2-3 double play, featuring defensive threat Mitch Moreland. A home run allowed to Tulowitzki put a damper on the excitement, but there were flashes of the pitcher Gonzalez could be in his first postseason appearance.
- Despite a Dallas Cowboys game at 3:30 PM CT, the capacity crowd was present and audible at first pitch. Before you scoff, it’s a legitimate concern—the Ballpark in Arlington and AT&T Stadium might as well share parking lots, and certainly share the city streets surrounding both fields. Additionally, Arlington has little-to-nothing in the way of public transportation, making it even more difficult to reach the park in a timely manner.
- The Jays showed some encouraging signs of snapping out of their power outage last night. Josh Donaldson hit a long double in the top of the fourth, and an intentional walk and accidental walk loaded the bases for Troy Tulowitzki, who walked in a run—not your normal way to score when you have the most home runs in the majors. Of course, Tulowitzki hit a homer off Gonzalez after the small-ball runs, and the Jays had more consistent hard contact against Texas last night, good signs for a team that relies on the power to be dangerous.
- Josh Hamilton, another guy suffering from not only a power outage but the third-longest postseason hitless streak in history, singled off Estrada in the bottom of the fifth. While that hit led to nothing productive for the Rangers, it was a slightly encouraging sign from the former slugger, who later singled in the bottom of the seventh.
- Rougned Odor continued to not waste a moment of postseason attention by flashing exactly what his glove can do, starting three of the four Texas double plays, including this particularly nifty one.
- Two Jays showed off their defensive prowess, as well, with Kevin Pillar making a running grab in center field to shut down any potential Texas outburst early, and Justin Smoak making a late grab on a hot grounder by his counterpart Mitch Moreland.
- According to Harold Reynolds, the whole of Canada cannot catch a baseball . . . Texas “closer” Shawn Tolleson pitched with a four-run deficit, an interesting decision given his previous overuse. If Texas has a lead in the last innings today, Banister might choose to go to Sam Dyson . . . David Price was warming in the bullpen toward the end of the game for the Jays, ready to come in and relieve on his throw day. Though he didn’t get into the game, it does raise an interesting question for Toronto as to what they’ll do if they need another left-hander in tomorrow’s game, and whether or not they’re planning on using Price in a potential Game Five.
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