Toronto starter Marco Estrada pitched a gem, Texas starter Cole Hamels threw the opposite of a gem, and the Blue Jays routed the Rangers 10-1 in Game One of the ALDS on Wednesday.
After the first two frames were uneventful, the Jays fired off 5 very preventable runs in the top of the 3rd. The inning started with a Melvin Upton Jr. flyout before number 9 hitter Ezequiel Carrera worked a walk; then Devin Travis fouled out.
There were two outs and a harmless runner on 1st when the carnage began. For whatever reason, as we have seen probably a dozen times in 2016, Hamels’s command totally lost him:
Travis advanced to second on a wild pitch. Then Josh Donaldson ripped a double that glanced off Adrian Beltre’s glove at 3rd and into left field. It’s a play Adrian makes at least 9 times out of 10, and it made the game 1-0 Jays.
Edwin Encarnacion followed with an infield single that got redirected off Cole’s glove; if he lets it go it’s a routine grounder to Rougned Odor up the middle, and the Rangers would have been out of the inning. Instead it put runners on 1st and 3rd, still with two outs.
Then Jose Bautista ripped a single to center making it 2-0 Toronto. After a walk to Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki cleared the bases with a triple to deep right center, but again the ball was playable. Ian Desmond tracked it all the way in center, then inexplicably stopped in the last 10 feet — before the ball landed — most likely because he got cold feet in front of the wall. At any rate the score went from 2-0 to 5-0, and the additional three outs the Rangers gave up ended up costing them 5 runs.
Cole Hamels threw 42 pitches in the top of the 3rd, the most in any inning of any game — regular season or postseason — in his career.
The Jays tacked on 2 more runs in the top of the 4th, ending Hamels’s shaky afternoon.
The Ranger offense, meanwhile, never got anything going against Marco Estrada. Through the first five innings the only baserunner Texas notched was an infield single from Adrian Beltre that was misplayed by 1B Edwin Encarnacion, where Estrada didn’t cover first. Besides that Texas got two hits and a run from Elvis Andrus, and a single from Carlos Beltran. That was it.
Texas managed just one run on 4 hits and 6 total bases, with one walk, on the day.
On the flip side the Blue Jays generated 10 runs on 13 hits, with six walks and 5 extra-base hits. Whether pitching, fielding, or hitting, it was about as lopsided an affair as is possible.
Fortunately for the Rangers, it’s just one game. But it was a pivotal game nonetheless. In the history of the 5-game series format, 84 out of 120 teams (70%) who won Game One went on to win the series. Of course, last season when these two teams played the Rangers got out to a 2-0 lead in the series and ended up losing in 5 games.
Tomorrow, Yu Darvish takes the bump in what will be dubbed a “must-win” game for Texas, even if it really isn’t. It isn’t ideal losing the first game — or any game — of a postseason series, and certainly not in the way the Rangers lost on Wednesday. But Toronto can’t take any of those runs with them. They still need to win two of the next four games to advance.
As for the Rangers, they can’t possibly play any worse. So that’s something of a silver lining.