Ah, where do we start with this one? It would be easy to overreact. Everything was bad. Cole Hamels was bad. Jake Diekman was bad. The defense was bad. The baserunning was bad. The offense was bad. Marco Estrada was very, very good. The outcome was bad. There’s really no redeeming that with anything but a deep sigh, a muttered epithet, and a reminder that when these two teams met last year, the Blue Jays lost the first two games, and that seemed to end up just fine for them.
The optimist’s angle on this game is sliver-thin, and starts with uttering the phrase “It’s just one game”, but halting while you look for something else to say before saying “It’s just one game” again, then again, eventually trailing off, standing up and silently wandering off into the street and disappearing for a decade or more, returning home not knowing how many years or worlds have passed, vaguely cognizant that your hair is matted with the dirt of a thousand roads and overpasses. In search of food one night, you stumble into your old house, quite by accident, to find that your spouse has married someone else and given all your clothes to Goodwill. All the furniture is different, and in the wrong place. Your dog has passed away, and your children are unrecognizable. God help me, they’re practically adults now.
A plaintive and nearly indiscernible “It’s just one game?” escapes your sun-baked lips, in hopes that they will somehow interpret the words as an apology, a prayer, a sonnet. But they won’t make eye contact. They hardly know the gaunt shadow before them. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, and realize you hardly recognize yourself either.
“One game?” Silence.
The police are at the door now, and they're asking you to come with them.
Like I said, it would be easy to overreact.
As baseball games go, if you were rooting for the Rangers, this was a pretty vintage Really Bad Game™, the kind that make you ignore this story altogether and let Toronto Schadenfrud Readers make up the bulk of the audience (Hi, Jays fans!). Cole Hamels was fine for the first inning, save for a Donaldson walk. He was even pretty good in the second inning, which ended when Elvis Andrus made a play that seemed to exclaim authoritatively that he was not Last Year’s Game Five Elvis Andrus: a pick-and-jump-and-throw to get Kevin Pillar by mere inches at first base.
In the bottom of the inning, it appeared that baseball was rewarding its favorite child when Adrian Beltre hit a grounder to the right side of the infield, and Edwin Encarnacion ranged to his right to pick it up.
[from the mound]
I SAID POLO, WHAT. Ohhhhh right first base, sorry guys."— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) October 6, 2016
Estrada simply forgot to cover first base. Beltre beat Encarnacion to first base by a large enough distance that Encarnacion threw his head back and tossed the ball to himself. “Ha ha ha!” we all laughed naively. “Baseball is great and good. I do not fear death or the sea! Set wide the sails, and bring me that horizon!”
Beltre would be stranded on first, however, and - after a leaping catch by Shin-Soo Choo to retire Melvin Upton to lead off the third inning, Rangers fans would get all the sea they could handle. Beware all ye who traverse past this part of the game story: here, there be monsters.
With one out in the third, after Choo’s catch, Hamels walked Ezequiel Carrera, who is the #9 hitter. No worries, Devon Travis popped out. There were two outs and a runner on first. This is nothing for our fearless Captain Cole Hamels.
But Hamels threw a wild pitch, and Carrera advanced to second base. Then Donaldson scorched a 109-mph line drive off the tip of Beltre’s glove. It bounced high into the air, and by the time Carlos Gomez could retrieve it, Donaldson was en route to second base. The throw appeared to beat Donaldson, but Rougned Odor - not known for a lack of accuracy taking swipes at Blue Jays at second base - was unable to make contact with Donaldson’s foot. By the time the tag hit his knee, Donaldson was safely on the base. Then Encarnacion singled. And so did Jose Bautista. Hamels walked Russell Martin. Two runs were home, the bases were loaded, and the Rangers trailed 2-0. Troy Tulowitzki worked a 2-2 count, then tripled off the wall in right center field.
Oh Captain, my captain.
Tulowitzki’s ball appeared to be catchable for center fielder Ian Desmond, but as Desmond approached the shadows, he appeared to lose track of where the wall was. When he checked to find his bearing, he lost eye contact with the ball.
I’d love to tell you that the Rangers #NeverEverQuit’d themselves back like so many times before, but that didn’t happen. In fact, Texas didn’t get another hit until the bottom of the 7th inning, a single from Carlos Beltran. By then, it was 7-0. Melvin Upton had led off the 4th inning with a home run, and Devon Travis reached on an Andrus throwing error. He later advanced on a passed ball and scored on a Donaldson single.
There were three more silver linings. One: Alex Claudio, as he has done all year, pitched 3⅔ innings of effective and scoreless mop-up relief. Tony Barnette also threw a scoreless 8th, making it four consecutive innings in which a Rangers reliever threw 10 or fewer pitches. And there was one more great play of note: in the 6th inning, with Donaldson again on second base, Edwin Encarnacion hit a ball to the wall in left field. Carlos Gomez tracked it down, leaping, making a stabbing catch, and slamming into the wall with his face and shoulder. It looked simultaneously beautiful and painful.
But the next real action came in the top of the 9th with Jake Diekman on the mound, and it… well, it was also bad.
Donaldson single (he had 4 hits and a walk today). Encarnacion single. Jose Bautista 3-run home run.
Bautista set the bat down gently.
So thorough was the beating that when Troy Tulowitzki singled later in the inning, and a Diekman pitch skittered off Lucroy and the umpire, evading arrest for a few seconds as it spun in and out of sight, he stayed put, not even bothering to take the free second base.
The Rangers did at least spoil the shutout in the bottom of the 9th. Andrus hit a triple off the wall to lead off the inning and scored when Shin-Soo Choo grounded out to first base. 10-1.
“It’s just one game.”
“They have a very tough lineup. You have to be very cautious at times. and when you try to make pitches, you can try to be too fine, and I might have caught myself a little bit too into that. Their guys were on. In the beginning, I was just trying to execute pitches, and I felt like I did that, but certain things just kind of come up. When you need to make key pitches, sometimes you overdo it and miss your spots a little bit.” - Cole Hamels
“Given how our club has played all year long, we’ve been in these types of situations before - look: we’ve come back and played well after these types of games. And with the veteran group we have in there, I don’t worry about the collateral damage in a game like this.” - Jeff Banister
“They played better than us today, so tomorrow, we gotta be better than them. It’s not the end. I don’t see it like that. He (Estrada) pitched well, he located, he was able to use his changeup and the fastball. He pitched up and down, and basically he kept us off-balance, and we weren’t able to put anything together.” - Carlos Beltran
“Yeah, it’s a five game series, you know. Two good teams playing. So we gotta wash this one off and be ready to go tomorrow.” (follow up: is it as easy as that?) “Yeah it’s that easy. We’ve done it our whole careers. That’s how baseball goes; that’s part of it. That’s one of Wash’s quotes. You’re gonna have your ups and downs, you win some, you lose some. You’re not going to win every one of them. We gotta come back ready to go tomorrow.” - Mitch Moreland
“This is a strong lineup, of course. Any one of them. But I know what I have to do is - I don’t have to think about that. What I have to do is throw my pitches; throw strikes.” - Alex Claudio, on Blue Jays lineup.
“I can answer that maybe later tomorrow, about how my arm is feeling, but I did only throw 30 pitches, so I think I may be able to handle it, but we’ll see how my arm responds tomorrow” - Claudio on his availability for tomorrow.
TEXAS falls to 4-7 all-time in Game 1 of postseason series (not including Wild Card)…has lost 4 straight to the Blue Jays in ALDS play.
COLE HAMELS took the loss in a series opener for just the 2nd time in 6 career season-opening starts…allowed a postseason career-high 7 runs in the shortest outing of his postseason career…has gone 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA (10 ER/16.2 IP) over 3 postseason starts vs. the Jays in the last 2 seasons…is winless in 7 career starts vs. Toronto in the regular season and postseason combined…threw 42 pitches in the 3rd inning.
ALEX CLAUDIO matched the 2nd-longest scoreless relief outing in Texas postseason history…only longer outing was Scott Feldman with 4.1 scoreless innings in the Rangers’ 7-3, 10-inning win over the Tigers in Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS vs. DET.
ELVIS ANDRUS had a single in the 6th inning to extend his postseason hit streak in Arlington to 9 games at .405 (15-37)...tallied his 1st career postseason triple in the 9th inning.
CARLOS BELTRAN had a single in the 7th inning and has now reached safely in 48 of 53 career postseason games.
TORONTO has won each of its 1st 2 postseason games in 2016…snapped a 3-game losing streak on the road in the postseason.
MARCO ESTRADA is the 3rd pitcher in Toronto postseason history to record a start of 8.0+ IP and one run-or-less, joining Dave Stieb (8.0 IP, 0 R in 1985 ALCS Game 1 vs. KC) and David Cone (8.0 IP, 1 R in 1992 ALCS Game 2 vs. OAK).
MELVIN UPTON, JR led off the 4th inning with a home run, his 8th career postseason long ball…ended a 19-game homerless drought in the postseason, as each of his previous 7 postseason home runs came during the 2008 playoffs.
TROY TULOWITZKI had a bases-loaded triple in the 3rd inning, his 1st career postseason triple…was the 10th postseason triple in Blue Jays history and the 1st since Paul Molitor on 10/23/93 in World Series Game 6.
JOSH DONALDSON is the 6th Blue Jay to record 4 hits in a postseason game (7 instances overall)…is the 4th Blue Jay with 2 doubles in a postseason game.
JOSE BAUTISTA hit his 2nd home run of the postseason and his 6 career home runs in the playoffs are tied with Joe Carter for most in franchise history.