Blue Jays sweep in dramatic style
Blue Jays sweep in dramatic style
Another game, another hero for the Blue Jays in the division series as they defeated the Rangers 7-6 in 10 innings to close out Texas at home, in a three-game sweep.
The Jays are headed back to the AL championship series as the result of Josh Donaldson’s mad dash home from third base with the winning run, after a short hop to first baseman Mitch Moreland that got away.
“It reminded me of the Matt Holliday slide (for the Rockies in 2007), honestly,” said Troy Tulowitzki, who was on deck. “I had the best seat in the house and I’m just happy to celebrate with my team. You see those plays all the time. People just panic. Obviously that crowd comes into effect. Even if he’s going to be out by a lot, that guy with the ball usually they mess it up.”
Technically a walk-off, but in reality a head-first dive into the next round. Russ Martin had grounded to shortstop with two men on, and when the relay throw to first bounced, Donaldson challenged his arm and ended the series. Not exactly a Bautista bat flip, but the win is the only thing that matters.
“That was all Donaldson,” third base coach Luis Rivera explained. “He read the ball in the dirt and he reacted and he went. I had nothing to do with it. I give all the credit to him, because he did a great job coming around hard, as soon as he saw the ball in the dirt he just went. He did a great job reading the ball.”
An AL MVP remains MVP until the next winner is announced. Thus it was that Donaldson, the reigning MVP, strode to the plate to lead off the 10th inning and promptly stroked a one-hop double off the right-centre fence. The Rangers walked Edwin Encarnacion, setting up a déjà vu moment for Jose Bautista.
With two on and a chance to make the difference in the deciding game, as he did a year ago in the deciding contest, Bautista stepped in against the flame-throwing Matt Bush. He worked the count full, then swung and missed at a high fastball. But baseball is a team sport.
“It was a great feeling today. Getting the win was huge,” Bautista said. “(Different heroes) is the way it’s been going. Hopefully it continues. Whatever way we can get the wins, we’re not going to complain.
“It’s not as nerve-wracking, but it’s equally pleasurable and enjoyable (as last year). Everybody knows what happened with them and how badly we wanted to beat them and we swept them. So, it was a great job by us.”
Nobody ever said the MLB playoffs were a walk in the park. On Sunday the Jays surrendered a three-run lead with one of their aces pitching, Aaron Sanchez, then trailed in the sixth before fighting and clawing their way back from a one-run deficit, taking advantage of a game-tying passed ball, and squeaking past the Rangers.
“Arguably they have the best lineup, best team in baseball, you look at what they’ve done,” manager John Gibbons said. “The American League is loaded, but they were right there at the top.”
The Jays are in the ALCS for a second consecutive year, this time against either the Indians or Red Sox. They will have a much-needed four-day break before getting back at it on the road for Game 1 on Friday.
It was the Jays’ sixth playoff victory in a row against Texas dating back to Game 2 of the 2015 matchup. They are 8-4 in their last 12 post-season games.
The Jays always believed they were going to be able to score some runs against Rangers starter Colby Lewis, but they didn’t count on Texas being able to light up the scoreboard against Sanchez the way that they did.
In the top of the first, Carlos Gomez drew a base on balls and gave the bat a dramatic flip in the direction of the Rangers dugout. Was that bit of low drama directed at Bautista for his Game 5 flip a year ago? Gomez wasn’t even here at the time. In any case, he came around to score, but the Jays quickly responded.
With one away and Ezequiel Carrera on first, Encarnacion hit a home run deep into the left-field stands to erase the one-run deficit. One out later, Martin crushed a home run, his first hit of the series, into the Jays’ bullpen. Martin has now homered for four different franchises in the post-season, a record.
“That’s cool, but it’s not the statistics that matter,” Martin shrugged. “At the end of the day it’s the win or the loss. All I know is we’re four-for-four (in 2016 playoff games). We have a group of guys that don’t panic. We faced a lot of adversity, but nothing got to us. Every time we responded. The momentum is on our side.”
Early on it seemed the Jays could smell the sweep, as they added two more in the third on a ground-rule double by Donaldson cashing Carrera from second base and a single to centre by Encarnacion, his fourth RBI of the game and his eighth of the series. But the Rangers responded against Sanchez once again.
The Jays answered back in the bottom of the sixth. Tulowitzki looped a one-out single to right field, followed by a pitching change bringing in lefty Jake Diekman to face Michael Saunders. Gibbons sent in Melvin Upton Jr. to hit and he roped a double into the left-field corner, pushing the tying run at third.
Manager Jeff Banister knew there was no backup infielder to let the Jays pinch-hit for Darwin Barney, with Devon Travis hobbled with a knee injury. So the Rangers walked Kevin Pillar and brought in right-hander Keone Kela to face the light-hitting second baseman