TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays have settled the score once and for all in their heated rivalry with the Texas Rangers. The reward is a trip to the American League Championship Series.
Josh Donaldson scored on an errant throw by Rougned Odor in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Blue Jays pulled off a dramatic 7-6 victory over the Rangers in Game 3 of the AL Division Series on Sunday night at Rogers Centre, completing a sweep. Toronto had runners on first and second base when Russell Martin hit a grounder to the hole between shortstop and third base. Elvis Andrus got the out at second, but Odor’s relay throw to first got away from Mitch Moreland, and Donaldson beat the first baseman’s throw to home plate with a headfirst dive.
The Blue Jays will play Game 1 of the ALCS on Friday night in Boston or Cleveland (time TBD). The ALCS will be broadcast on TBS, as well as Sportsnet and RDS (in French) in Canada.
“Well it was 3-2 and Russell was taking some pretty big swings,” said Donaldson. “I was expecting contact right there. I was able to get a pretty good secondary [lead]. I was at third base when the throw was being made. Once I saw him miss the pick, I felt I had a chance right there, and fortunately for us, I was able to make it.”
The umpires reviewed whether Edwin Encarnacion’s slide into second was legal, but the ruling on the field was confirmed and no interference was called.
|Gm 1||Oct. 6||TOR 10, TEX 1|
|Gm 2||Oct. 7||TOR 5 TEX 3|
|Gm 3||Oct. 9||TOR 7, TEX 6 (10)|
“It was crazy,” Martin said. “That’s the best ground ball to short I’ve ever had, I think.”
Donaldson led the way for Toronto with a 3-for-5 night, which included a pair of doubles and an RBI. Encarnacion and Martin added first-inning homers, while right-hander Aaron Sanchez did not factor into the decision after he was charged with six runs on three hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings. The bullpen took it the rest of the way with 4 1/3 scoreless frames.
Odor’s night came to an end in devastating fashion, but he earlier hit a two-run homer and scored a pair of runs. Andrus also went deep for Texas and Moreland added two RBIs with a go-ahead double in the sixth inning. Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis did not receive a decision after he allowed five runs on five hits over two-plus innings. The loss went to Matt Bush, who tossed two scoreless innings before the decisive 10th.
“It’s our belief that any time you enter Spring Training, it’s one mission, and that’s to win and play for the opportunity to win the World Series,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “That’s been our mission all along. It’s disappointing in a sense we’re not going to continue to play. But I’m most proud of how our guys continued to battle.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The mad dash: Encarnacion helped set up Donaldson’s mad dash by getting to second base in 3.55 seconds, which forced Odor to rush his throw to first on the final play. According to Statcast™, that was Encarnacion’s fastest first-to-second time on a forceout or double play all season, topping his previous best of 3.81 seconds. Martin got down the first-base line in 4.6 seconds, his sixth-fastest home-to-first time of the nearly 250 non-bunt times tracked for him this year. Donaldson topped out at 19.5 mph, which was faster than any speed he clocked in the last two weeks of the regular season after missing three games with a sore hip.
“When you have 50,000 fans screaming, it kind of numbs the pain a little bit,” said Donaldson, who is still bothered by the sore hip. “It gives you that little extra bolt of adrenaline. … The fact of the matter is I want to be out there for my team, my teammates want me out there and I want to contribute in any way possible.”
Costly passed ball: The Rangers had a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the sixth before a one-out single by Troy Tulowitzki, a double by Melvin Upton Jr. and an intentional walk to Kevin Pillar loaded the bases. Reliever Keone Kela got Darwin Barney to pop out, but his first pitch to Ezequiel Carrera got away from catcher Jonathan Lucroy for a passed ball to tie the game. Kela retired Cabrera on a flyout to right to end the inning.
“We all expected to compete better than this,” Lucroy said. “It’s very disappointing.”
Andrus goes deep: Andrus hit his first postseason home run in the third inning. He had gone 169 at-bats without hitting a homer. That was the fifth-longest drought in postseason history. Omar Vizquel holds the record with 228 at-bats without a homer in the postseason. It was also the first home run by a Rangers shortstop in the postseason. That’s the only position besides pitchers that hadn’t gone deep for the Rangers in the postseason.
Moreland delivers: The Rangers, trailing 5-4, mounted a two-out rally in the sixth when Sanchez walked Odor and gave up a single to Lucroy. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons then brought in right-hander Joe Biagini to face Moreland, who doubled into the left-centre-field gap to put the Rangers ahead.
“It’s disappointing to end it like that,” Moreland said. “We fought hard.”
The Ed-Wing: In shades of the AL Wild Card Game, Encarnacion unloaded on an 0-1 pitch from Lewis during the bottom of the first inning and sent it over the wall in left field. According to Statcast™, Encarnacion’s fourth career postseason homer had a projected distance of 395 feet and left his bat at 104.8 mph. Encarnacion is now third all time in franchise history with his four postseason home runs, trailing only Joe Carter and Jose Bautista, who each have six. Martin followed two batters later with a solo shot to left field as the Blue Jays jumped out to an early 3-1 lead.
“We weren’t thinking about [revenge], we were just thinking about winning,” Encarnacion said. “Thank God we swept them. But we’re only thinking about winning, not about what happened before.”
“The thing with the playoffs is the teams that are best over the course of the year get to the playoffs, but the teams that make it to the end are the hottest teams. They were hotter than we were. They outplayed us.” — Lucroy
“Obviously, great job by [Donaldson] on being heads-up there and taking a huge risk. But it’s like any risky situation in life — if you succeed, you have a great payoff. We won the series based on his great ability to take that chance.” — Bautista
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays’ win marked the 32nd time a postseason series ended on a walk-off play. Toronto has prevailed in the last two, including the AL Wild Card Game, making it just the second team in history to win two series-clinching games on walk-off plays in the same postseason. The other? The 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks prevailed with a walk-off in Game 5 of the National League Division Series and then ended that year’s World Series on Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off single off the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera. Both of those wins by Arizona came in the bottom of the ninth, however, so the Blue Jays are the only team to win both of their walk-off, series-clinching games in extra innings.
Seven players homered for the Blue Jays in this series, which ties a Major League record for a Division Series. Carrera, Encarnacion, Bautista, Martin, Tulowitzki, Pillar and Upton all had at least one home run.
Rangers: Opening Day 2017 is against the Indians on April 3 at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Blue Jays: Toronto advances to the ALCS as it awaits the winner of Cleveland and Boston. The Indians currently lead the Red Sox 2-0 in that series, with Game 3 set for Monday in Boston.