ARLINGTON, Texas – Talk about a 1-2-3 punch for the Toronto Blue Jays in these playoffs.
The wild-card Blue Jays have rediscovered their power stroke in October, and are going home with a chance to sweep the Texas Rangers in the A.L. Division Series after a 5-3 win Friday.
Edwin Encarnacion capped a three-homer burst in the fifth inning off Yu Darvish, and Toronto won on a dreary, misty afternoon for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 matchup.
One important reminder, though: Last fall, Toronto lost the first two games of the ALDS at home against Texas, then rallied to win the series.
“I learned something last year … you got to win three games,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “They’ve got a great team over there. You don’t lead the American League, powerhouse league, you don’t luck into that.”
Wearing spikes that had “No Panic” printed on them, closer Roberto Osuna got a five-out save that sent the Blue Jays home looking to clinch the series in Game 3 Sunday night.
Osuna entered after reliever Francisco Liriano was hit near the back of the head by Carlos Gomez’s line drive – Liriano was hospitalized as a precaution. It was Osuna’s first appearance since he left the mound in the A.L. wild-card win Tuesday night with a shoulder injury that left his status in doubt.
Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Encarnacion, who ended the wild-card game with a three-run homer in the 11th inning, hit solo homers in a five-batter span in the fifth. Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run drive in the second put 20-game winner J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays ahead to stay.
“Getting behind in the count, and they were looking for fastballs,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “When I left it on the plate, they got it.”
Texas scored twice in the eighth, including Gomez’s single that struck Liriano. The pitcher walked off the mound, and an ambulance took him to the hospital for what Gibbons referred to as “some further tests.”
A day after Cleveland homered three times in an inning against Boston and won its ALDS opener, the Blue Jays matched the feat against the team that had the best record in the AL this year. The home runs boosted the Blue Jays in a game in which they got outhit 13-6.
While Toronto finished the regular season fourth in the majors with 221 homers, there were only eight the last 11 games. They already have eight in three postseason games.
“Home runs are always a good thing,” Gibbons said.
Darvish had as many strikeouts (four) in his five innings as homers allowed, becoming the first pitcher in the postseason to allow four homers in a game since Minnesota’s Rick Reed against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS.
Texas has lost five straight ALDS games to the Blue Jays since winning the first two games in Toronto last October. The Rangers dropped to 1-11 in ALDS games in their home ballpark, including Cole Hamels worst postseason outing in the 10-1 series-opening loss Thursday.
“We’ve come back from a lot this year. … We all believe in each other,” said Texas outfielder Ian Desmond, who drove in two runs but was also thrown out trying to score on an infield grounder.
Happ allowed nine hits but only one run before leaving one batter into the sixth.
“You go into a game knowing that at some point they’re going to get their hits,” Happ said. “But yeah, it was a battle. It seemed like a long five innings.”
Osuna, who afterward said he felt no pain, came in a little earlier than planned, a move that followed Liriano getting struck.
The ball off Gomez’s bat was measured at 102 mph, and Liriano turned away just in time to avoid being hit in the face. Gomez winced as the ball caromed into right-center field to make it 5-2.
Desmond drove in a run with a grounder before Osuna struck out Carlos Beltran to end the eighth.
Adrian Beltre was stranded at second after a leadoff double in the ninth.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis was scratched from the starting lineup about an hour before first pitch because of right knee irritation.
Rangers: RF Shin-Soo Choo was out of the lineup after playing Game 1, but manager Jeff Banister said Choo was fine physically. Choo was on the disabled list four times this year, and had missed 39 games with a broken left forearm until last weekend.
Blue Jays: One of the two losses by RHP Aaron Sanchez was to Texas, when he gave up a season high-matching six runs and was the loser in that May 15 game with the bench-clearing brawl after Bautista was punched by Rougned Odor.
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis, who starts game 3, is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in nine career postseason games (eight starts) for Texas. In 2010, he won the A.L. Championship Series clincher to get the Rangers to their first World Series, and beat San Francisco in Game 3 for their only victory in that series.
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