BY: Richard W. Humphrey
The heavy underdog Texas Rangers return to Arlington with an improbable 2-0 lead in the American League Division series against Toronto. Texas knocked out Cy Young contender David Price in game one to win 5-3, and scored late to tie game two at four runs apiece en route to a 14 inning 6-4 victory. Las Vegas odds makers made Toronto the favorite to win the World Series, while Texas had better odds than just one team. The Rangers, however, took away the home field advantage with the game one win and really put the Jays in a hole with Friday’s overtime victory.
On Friday, Cole Hamels wasn’t great, but he was good enough. He gave up four runs on six hits over seven innings, though two were unearned runs. Texas had taken early leads of 2-0 in the first inning and 3-1 in the second, but Toronto tied it in their half of the second and moved in front with another run in the fifth, in what proved to be their last score of the day. Hamels and five relievers shut out the Jays over the last nine innings.
Texas tied the game at four in the eighth inning with Mike Napoli singling in the run in a pinch hitting appearance. Little used Hanser Alberto, playing third base in place of the injured Adrian Beltre, drove home the go ahead run in the 14th inning with a line single to center field. Delino DeShields, Jr. followed with an infield hit to drive in an insurance run.
Keone Kela pitched the 13th inning to qualify for the win. Ross Ohlendorf pitched the 14th for the save. 42 year-old LaTroy Hawkins, the oldest active player in the Major Leagues this season, took the loss.
Game one was noteworthy for injuries. Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, the heart of Toronto’s batting order both came out of the game, though both were back in the lineup on Friday. The Rangers suffered the more damaging injury. Beltre injured his back sliding in the first inning. He stayed in the game and actually singled to drive in a run in the third inning; but he ran so gingerly to first base that it was obvious he needed to be replaced. An MRI indicated no structural damage, but he was not in Friday’s lineup, and the Rangers actually flew Joey Gallo to Toronto to perhaps replace Beltre on the roster.
Yovani Gallardo started the game for the Rangers. He had faced the Jays twice during the regular season, completing 13-2/3rds innings of scoreless baseball to win the only two games Texas won against Toronto. He made it win number three by allowing two runs in six innings. The Rangers scored two runs in the third inning on run scoring singles by Beltre and DeShields. Toronto cut the lead in half in the fourth, but Texas added two more runs in the fifth for a 4-1 lead. Toronto closed to within a run with singletons in the fifth and sixth innings, but the Rangers’ bullpen did the job, shutting down the Jays over the final third of the game. Texas added a run on a Rougned Odor home run in the seventh inning to make it a 5-3 final.
Manager Jeff Banister made a daring pitching decision in the ninth inning as he passed over closer Shawn Tolleson in favor of Sam Dyson. Bannister explained later that he preferred the sinker balling Dyson with his penchant for coaxing ground balls. It worked. Dyson gave up a lead-off single on a ground ball up the middle, but struck out Troy Tulowitski and got two groundouts to end the game.
Offensively, Odor and Robinson Chirinos were the stars. Odor scored three runs, while Chirinos hit a two run home run in the fifth.
Texas has the opportunity to close out the series at home Sunday night. They send Martin Perez to the mound instead of veterans Colby Lewis or Derek Holland. Perez has eight quality starts since August 1, the most on the staff in that span. Toronto counters with Marco Estrada. If the Blue Jays win, they’ll start former Ranger R. A. Dickey on Monday in a game that will start at 3:00 PM. Either Holland or Lewis will start for Texas.
The Jays were 3-1 favorites to win the World Series when the 10 playoff teams were set. Texas was listed at 12-1, better than just the Astros at 14-1. The Jays were heavy favorites in game one with David Price starting, and were still the favorites on the betting line at home for game two, even with Cole Hamels starting for Texas. But they play the games on the field, not in Las Vegas betting parlors. Two games into the series, Toronto is one loss from ending their season, while the Rangers are just five wins away from going to the World Series.
* Rougned Odor’s three runs scored in game one matched the Ranger post-season record. The other Ranger to score three times in a post-season game was Adrian Beltre, who hit three home runs in 2011 against Tampa Bay.
* Sam Dyson and Ross Ohlendorf became just the third and fourth Ranger pitchers to earn a save in a post season game. The other two are Darren Oliver (one save) and Neftali Feliz (six saves).