TORONTO -- With his bullpen fully rested, Rangers manager Jeff Banister was able to go with his favorite pitching blueprint to take Game 1 away from the Blue Jays with a 5-3 victory on Thursday afternoon in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo gave the Rangers five strong innings before Banister, holding a 4-2 lead, turned it over to the bullpen. The only twist in the formula was right-hander Sam Dyson pitching the ninth inning to get the save instead of closer Shawn Tolleson.
Dyson followed right-hander Keone Kela and left-hander Jake Diekman. Kela gave up a home run to Jose Bautista leading off the sixth to make it a one-run game, then retired three straight hitters. Diekman followed, retiring the side in order in both the seventh and eighth innings while Rougned Odor's home run gave the Rangers a 5-3 lead.
"Well, we talked to the four guys that we use at the back end of the bullpen about the stretch of hitters and how we're going to utilize those guys to match up through the different innings," Banister said. "It's about the stretch of hitters that we feel that are the best matchups for those guys. Tolley's still our guy out there in the bullpen, and you will see Tolleson at the end of the game."
The advantage Dyson has over Tolleson is using his power sinker against the Blue Jays' big right-handed bats. Dyson had a ground-ball rate of 75.9 percent this season, while Tolleson's was 42.4 percent.
"Obviously, I wanted to be out there," Tolleson said. "But at the end of the day, it's about winning. What Dyson and Diek did for us, it was awesome."
Encarnacion started the ninth by grounding a single up the middle. Dyson then struck out Tulowitzki before getting Justin Smoak and Russell Martin on grounders to end the game.
"Getting the ball anytime during the game is exciting, so I was just ready to get in and try to perform my best," Dyson said. "We were told as a group, me, Jake and Tolley, that it was going to be a collective effort. Tolley is our closer, and I'm just happy to get the job done."
Dyson normally pitches in the eighth inning. But Diekman was too good, retiring six straight hitters, including Bautista to end the eighth.
The work by the bullpen allowed Gallardo to get the win. Gallardo began the game by retiring the first nine hitters he faced. The Blue Jays got one run off him in the both the fourth and fifth before Banister decided to go to the bullpen.
"He did a great job for us, and really what we were looking for from Yovani," Banister said. "He did what he does; he kept it right where we needed for it to be, and really did a masterful job of moving the fastball around, utilizing the secondary pitches, kind of keeping the hitters off balance. Got hit, got barreled up a couple of times. But really, the five innings, that's what we really needed from him, so I think he did a great job."
Gallardo is now 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA in five career postseason starts and one relief appearance.
"I felt good," Gallardo said. "The first couple innings, I was falling behind guys, the ball was up in the zone a little bit, but we stayed with the game plan that [catcher Robinson Chirinos] and I had going into the game, and we got some ground balls whenever I needed to, and limited the damage."