Blue Jays smash Rangers in ALDS Game 1 blowout: 10 things to know
The intense battle we were hoping to see turned into a blowout
Well that wasn't the way the Rangers drew it up.
With one of their two aces on the hill in Cole Hamels, the Rangers had to have been feeling pretty good about their chances to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS against their hated rival, the Blue Jays.
Instead, the Blue Jays battered the Rangers in pretty much every aspect of the game, winning 10-1 and taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
What's worse, when the game was already over, Texas' Public Enemy No. 1, Jose Bautista, hit a three-run homer to make a blowout into a laugher. And, no, he didn't flip his bat or trot around the bases slowly.
Here are 10 other things to know:
1. There was a slight bit of luck in the big inning
The Blue Jays busted the game wide open in the third inning with five runs on four hits. It got started with a one-out walk to Ezequiel Carrera, but then leadoff man Devon Travis popped out for the second out of the inning.
At this point, the rest of the inning's play-by-play feed looks awful on Rangers starter Cole Hamels, but there were some really close calls.
Josh Donaldson's double opened up the scoring, but it glanced off the end of third baseman Adrian Beltre's glove. Beltre usually corrals those, too, so it's possible there was some funky spin there. On the next hitter, Edwin Encarnacion hit a ball so weak that he ended up on first base with an infield single.
If Beltre can handle the liner, Hamels gets out of the inning unscathed. If Encarnacion's single was hit more toward someone on the corners or the mound, it's only a one-run inning.
This isn't to say anything negative about the Blue Jays. This is how baseball goes sometimes, and you have to take advantage. And they did.
2. Ian Desmond's limited experience in CF hurt
Desmond was a shortstop before this season. He started the year in left field. Then he was moved to center, and that's where he's been since. The big blow of the game came in the aforementioned third inning and it involved Desmond.
After Encarnacion's single, Jose Bautista -- in an outstanding at-bat, by the way -- singled up the middle. Russell Martin then walked to load the bases for Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo crushed one to dead center that made it just over Desmond's glove. He alligator-armed it while there was still room to make the catch.
The bases cleared, the Blue Jays had a 5-0 lead and the route was on.
Obviously give credit to Tulowitzki on the shot, too, and he ended up 3 for 5 with three RBI.
3. Hamels isn't as good throwing to Lucroy
Hamels didn't have his good stuff on this day. It happens. His command seemed off even before he started to give up some runs. Let's keep in mind he'd never pitched to Jonathan Lucroy until August of this season after the Rangers' blockbuster trade to acquire the All-Star catcher. Here's Hamels' ERA with different receivers this regular season.
Chirinos is on the ALDS roster, just in case the Rangers feel like making a change for Hamels' next outing -- if there is one. Of course ...
4. Hamels didn't close the season well, either
In his last six starts, Hamels had a 6.75 ERA. He allowed at least six earned runs in three of those six starts, and it raised his season ERA from 2.67 to 3.32.
On the flip-side ...
5. Estrada was great again against Rangers in ALDS
With the Blue Jays facing elimination last season in this same ballpark, Estrada went out and allowed only one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, grabbing the win and extending the series. In fact, in three starts last postseason -- including the ALCS -- Estrada had a 2.33 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.
On Thursday, he was even better than that.
Estrada dominated from the start through the eighth inning. He was touched for a run in the ninth, but still worked 8 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking none. He gave up four hits and the one run. It was one of the best outings of his career -- as he doesn't even have a regular-season complete game.
Despite all the run scoring, if there was a game MVP for the Blue Jays, it goes to Estrada.
6. Melvin Upton Jr. is no stranger to postseason power
The Blue Jays' 5-0 lead through three innings grew to 6-0 when Melvin Upton Jr. homered in the fourth inning. Though it's been a while, this was actually his eighth career playoff dinger. Back in 2008, he clubbed seven homers with 15 RBI through 11 games in the ALDS and ALCS, helping propel the Rays to their first-ever World Series.
If he's gonna supply the Jays with this kind of down-order power, a World Series trip might just be in the cards.
7. Josh Donaldson had a huge game
Donaldson was 4 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and two RBI, but I'd like to focus on the first-inning walk.
The first time it started to look like maybe Hamels wasn't comfortable out there was a nine-pitch walk to Donaldson, who was only the second batter of the game. Donaldson took close pitches and fouled off four Hamels offerings. This helped jack the Hamels pitch count up early but also expose that he wasn't locked in on the mound.
8. Jays pitchers need to start covering first
This ended up not mattering in the least, but it's something that should be discussed by manager John Gibbons' coaching staff moving forward so it doesn't affect a game.
In the wild-card game, there was a right-side grounder by Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, and Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman didn't cover first base. Machado might have beat him to the bag anyway, but the pitcher needs to break for first on pretty much every right-side grounder. That's elementary.
Why bring that up? Because in the bottom of the second inning, Adrian Beltre hit a weak grounder to second and Estrada didn't cover first base. Granted, I'll put a lot of blame on first baseman Edwin Encarnacion -- the ball was essentially right to second baseman Devon Travis -- but that's beside the point here. Even if he ultimately won't be needed there, a pitcher needs to break as if he will be needed on every right-side grounder.
9. Give Alex Claudio some credit
The Rangers had to pull their Game 1 starter after just 3 1/3 innings, and that could be a big issue that bleeds into the next few games of the series. Instead, Alex Claudio worked 3 2/3 innings and didn't allow a run. Not letting the lead get out of hand is a big deal -- after all, the Rangers had six innings to make up the seven runs if they were to battle back -- but he also saved manager Jeff Banister from having to burn through his entire bullpen in the first game of the series.
10. The series is far from over
It should go without saying, but sometimes we have a tendency to go nuts about the first game of a series, particularly when it's only a best-of-five instead of a best-of-seven. Look no further than this exact series last season to see that a hole doesn't mean anything in the early-going, as the Blue Jays lost the first two games at home and then rallied to win the final three and advance to the ALCS.
Yes, this is an advantage for the Blue Jays, but the Rangers are certainly not buried here. They also won't have to wait long for another chance. Game 2 is coming Friday at 1:08 p.m. ET, which is essentially noon local time. So they don't have long to lick their wounds and instead get the quick turnaround for a chance to even things up and erase the bad memory of Game 1.
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