By: Richard W. Humphrey
Texas Rangers Baseball Contributor
ARLINGTON, Texas – Marco Estrada pitched masterfully, and the Toronto offense awoke from a six week slumber to blast Texas 10-1 in the division series opening game. Cole Hamels had control problems as he walked three to go along with six hits allowed. The Blue Jays blasted him for five runs in the third and two more in the fourth, before he was relieved after retiring just 10 batters out of 20 that he faced. He threw 42 pitches in the fateful third inning, the most he has ever thrown in one inning in the regular or post season, en route to allowing seven runs, six of which were earned.
Hamels skated through the first two innings facing seven batters. In the third inning, he retired two of the first three batters with Ezequiel Carrera walking. The inning fell apart from there. A wild pitch moved Carrera to second base, and Josh Donaldson doubled him home. Donaldson’s hit was a sharp line drive that was just a shade high for Adrian Beltre to catch. He got his glove on it, but instead of an inning ending out, it deflected into left field for a run scoring double. Two more singles followed to score a second run and a walk loaded the bases. Troy Tulowitzki then unloaded the bases with a triple to make the score 5-0 and hush the sellout crowd.
Melvin Upton, Jr. homered to lead off Toronto’s fourth inning. An Elvis Andrus throwing error put Devon Travis on base, and he later scored on Donaldson’s single. That was the last batter Hamels faced.
Jose Bautista homered in the ninth inning after Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion opened the inning with singles. That completed Toronto’s scoring at 10.
The Rangers were mesmerized by Estrada. Adrian Beltre hit a soft ground ball leading off the second inning and was safe when the first baseman fielded the ball and no one covered the base. Beltre never advanced as the next three batters flew out, struck out and grounded out. Two more Rangers singled before the ninth, but both were erased from the base paths with double plays.
Estrada had faced just one more than the minimum after eight innings. In the ninth, Elvis Andrus tripled leading off and scored on Shin-Soo Choo’s ground out. That chased Estrada, but Ryan Tepera got a ground out and fly out to end the game. That made the final score 10-1. Estrada was the winning pitcher, and Hamels was the loser.
It was a disappointing day all the way around for Ranger fans. Hamels wasn’t sharp. Perhaps the eight day layoff from his last start was to blame. The defense was shoddy, as there was not only the error that led to an unearned run, but as many as three critical plays that could have been made and weren’t. The offense was literally non-existent – one run on four hits, only one of which went for extra bases.
The loss unquestionably puts the Rangers in a hole. Friday’s game with Yu Darvish starting is critical. The Jays have better pitchers scheduled to start games three and four – Alex Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. The Rangers have to win one of those and Darvish’s Friday start to even force a game five.
Darvish will face J. A. Happ on Friday afternoon. Game time is 1:08 Eastern/12:08 PM. Happ is left-handed, so it is possible that Ryan Rua gets inserted into the starting lineup, probably at first base for Mitch Moreland.
- The Blue Jays have won 22 of the last 32 games against the Rangers.
- Texas is now 1-10 at home in Division Series games, with the lone win coming against Tampa Bay in 2011, an 8-6 win in game two.
- The game was witnessed by a sellout crowd of 47,434.
- Estrada’s 8-1/3 innings effort is the longest start in Blue Jays’ post-season history.