Coming into this ALDS between the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, most outsiders expected Toronto to roll to an easy victory in this series. Somebody forgot to tell the Rangers that, as they won their second straight in Toronto 6-4 in 14 innings to take a 2-0 lead in the series. The Rangers have three opportunities to clinch the series, with their first coming in Arlington on Sunday. Keone Kela picked up the win while LaTroy Hawkins took the loss and Ross Ohlendorf picked up the save.
The Rangers struck first once again, scoring two in the first. Leadoff hitter Delino DeShields started the game with a double to rightfield, and was immediately brought home by a single to center off the bat of Shin-Soo Choo. Prince Fielder singled to move Choo to third, and Mitch Moreland brought Choo home on a fielder’s choice, but a throwing error brought in the second run without an out. Unfortunately, back to back groundouts, including a double play, prevented the Rangers from having a bigger inning.
Josh Donaldson, potential AL MVP, wasted little time getting the Jays back in it. He came up second in the bottom of the first and hit a homerun to deep center off Cole Hamels, but otherwise the Jays went quickly in the first frame.
Jul 2, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor (12) slides safely into third base after a throwing error in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Texas Rangers defeated Baltimore Orioles 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Texas got that run back in the top of the second as Hanser Alberto, who was at third in place of the injured Adrian Beltre, hit a sac fly to score Rougned Odor, who had walked and moved to third on a groundout. It was the first of multiple times Odor’s speed was on display in this game. His speed was one of the advantages I knew the Rangers needed to tap into to win this series, and they did so today.
The Jays answered right back with two in the bottom of the frame to tie it at three. After a leadoff single by Troy Tulowitzki and a ground rule double by Chris Colabello, the Jays had two runners in scoring position with no outs. A single by Russell Martin made it 3-2 and a groundout double play by Kevin Pillar brought in the second run.
After that, Hamels and Toronto starter Marcus Stroman settled in. The only other run either starter would allow was in the bottom of the fifth as Pillar got a leadoff double and after moving to third came in to score on a sac fly by Ben Revere.
The Rangers finally cashed in in the top of the 14th. After two lineouts to open the inning, Odor came to the plate. The shift was on, and he hit away from the shift toward Donaldson, the third baseman playing where shortstop would be. It was a difficult play for Donaldson, and he rushed it and threw an errant ball which allowed Odor to reach, the second time his speed made a difference in this one. The very next play Chris Gimenez singled to right, and Odor turned the corner to go to third, but was held up. The throw was close, but the umpires ruled that Odor got back to second in time to keep the inning alive. Alberto came up next, and singled to center to score Odor and make it 5-4. Giminez moved to third and Alberto advanced to second on the throwing error. Next, DeShields hit a groundball that looked like an easy play for Tulowitzki, but the speed of DeShields made the difference as he beat out the throw and Giminez scored to make it 6-4.
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Oldendorf came on in the bottom of the 14th to close it out for Texas. After striking out the first two batters, he hit Russell Martin to keep the game going. Kevin Pillar represented the tying run, but Olendorf struck out the side to end the game.
Game three will be on Sunday at 7:10 PM CT in Arlington. Martin Perez will get the start for Texas instead of Derek Holland, whom many expected would start. Marco Estrada will take the mound for Toronto, with their season on the line. It will be the first postseason start for each pitcher. Estrada does have postseason experience as he pitched in four games for the Brewers in 2011, allowing four runs in six innings.
I think part of the Rangers edge comes from the fact they didn’t clinch until the last day and they were never allowed to relax. They had to play their A-game until the final day of the regular season. The Jays clinched early, but they seemed to relax in their final series of the year in Tampa Bay, in which they could have won home field advantage throughout the postseason. They were not firing on all cylinders, while the Rangers were. Of course, it’s not over yet. In 2012 the Cincinnati Reds won the first two games of the NLDS in San Francisco before losing three in a row on their field to lose the series (the playoff format was temporarily different and the first two games were played at the lower seed’s home field while the last three were played at the higher seed). This series isn’t in the bag yet.