ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays' bats have come alive in Texas, and as a result, Toronto is one win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series.
The Blue Jays homered four times to take a stranglehold over the AL Division Series with a 5-3 victory over the Rangers in Game 2 on Friday afternoon at Globe Life Park. Toronto now returns north of the border with a 2-0 lead in the series and a chance to close things out on Sunday night, thanks in large part to Texas going 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position.
Troy Tulowitzki, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion all homered for the Blue Jays. All four home runs came off Yu Darvish, which set a career high for the Rangers right-hander and also marked the most Toronto has hit in one postseason game. Tulowitzki finished his day 2-for-4, and he is 5-for-9 with five RBIs in the first two games of this series.
"Home runs are always a good thing," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Some good at-bats, some unlikely guys. Carrera, he doesn't hit a lot of home runs. Kev can hit his share. I know one thing about Pillar, he doesn't necessarily hit a lot of them, but he hits some big ones ... and of course Eddie does that all the time."
The Rangers will turn to right-hander Colby Lewis in Game 3 as they look to keep their season alive, while the Blue Jays will counter with Aaron Sanchez, who led the AL with a 3.00 ERA during the regular season. In the 2-2-1 format during the Wild Card era (since 1995), teams that lost the first two games at home have gone 2-14, but Toronto came back from that deficit last year against Texas to advance to the ALCS.
"We have to win," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "There's no tomorrow. Not only that, we're trying to do what they did to us last year. Hopefully we can turn it around and do the same thing they did to us last year. We know we can do it. We just need to get it done in the field. There's no doubt we believe in this team. We've got to find a way."
Left-hander J.A. Happ picked up the victory for Toronto, but his outing was not as easy as the score made it seem. Texas had at least two baserunners in each of the first four innings of the game, but Happ managed to survive and pitch into the sixth. He was charged with one run on nine hits and a walk, while striking out five over five-plus innings.
Darvish looked electric on the mound early on, with a fastball that sat around 95 mph and nasty offspeed pitches that led to a trio of strikeouts early in the game. But he also made a few mistakes, and the Blue Jays were there to capitalize whenever he did. Darvish was charged with five runs on five hits and one walk, with four strikeouts over five innings.
"At the end of the day, we have to play better baseball," Rangers designated hitter Carlos Beltran said. "We have to pitch better and hit better. They have a good team. They have been able to swing the bats well and pitch well. We haven't. It's been a tough two days."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Power of Troy: Tulowitzki delivered the big blow with a bases-loaded triple in Game 1, and he was back to his old tricks the following day as well. In the second inning, Tulowitzki unloaded on a 2-0 count from Darvish and sent it over the wall in left-center field for a two-run shot. According to Statcast™, Tulowitzki's fourth career postseason home run was projected to travel 402 feet and left his bat at 105.4 mph. The no-doubter came on a 96.2-mph fastball, which was the hardest thrown pitch by Darvish that was sent out of the park this season.
"He's got good stuff. You see all those strikeouts," Tulowitzki said about Darvish. "He got behind 2-0, threw a fastball and I put a nice swing on it. It was nice to get on top of him early, especially on the road."
Rangers' RISP problems: Texas was 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position. It's the third time in postseason history that a club has had 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two or fewer hits. The Rangers, trailing 5-3, started a potential rally in the ninth with a leadoff double by Beltre. But Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna struck out Rougned Odor, retired Jonathan Lucroy on a popup and got Mitch Moreland on a fly to center to end the game.
The hat trick: Toronto broke the game wide open in the fifth inning with three solo homers. Pillar got things started by tomahawking a fastball from Darvish that was 4.16 feet off the ground at the point of contact and sending it over the wall in left. There were only two home runs all year that were hit on higher pitches (Corey Dickerson's homer 4.22 feet off the ground on Sept. 11 was the highest). Carrera followed two batters later with a deep shot to right-center field that was projected by Statcast™ to travel 388 feet. Encarnacion then delivered the final shot of the inning with a homer to left that went a projected 357 feet.
"I feel like I've gotten good pitches to hit all series," Pillar said. "I haven't been able to get any hits. I just stayed aggressive. I was also in a good count too. I felt like I was going to go get a fastball and put a good swing on it."
Desmond out at home:Ian Desmond doubled to lead off the seventh and went to third on Beltran's grounder. Beltre then hit a chopper to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who stayed back to field the ball. Desmond hesitated and then broke for home. Donaldson went home with the throw and Desmond was called out trying to slide under catcher Russell Martin's tag. The Rangers challenged the call, which stood after a replay review.
"If he charges it, I don't go," Desmond said. "But he stayed back and then made a gutsy play throwing home."
"I was in shock. I wasn't even able to enjoy the base hit." -- Carlos Gomez, on his eighth-inning line drive that hit Blue Jays pitcher Francisco Liriano in the back of the head. Liriano was taken to the hospital to be examined after the play
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Tulowitzki has 16 RBIs during his postseason career with the Blue Jays, which is tied for the third most in franchise history. He's hitting .375 with five extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in his past eight postseason games.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Sanchez pitches for Toronto as the ALDS resumes with Game 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Rogers Centre. Sanchez did not allow an earned run in 7 1/3 innings of relief over nine appearances in the postseason last year.
Rangers: Lewis is set to pitch for Texas. He is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance in the postseason, and 2-4 with a 4.75 ERA in nine career starts against Toronto.