Richard Justice

'No panic': Rangers look to flip script on Jays

'No panic': Rangers look to flip script on Jays

TORONTO -- For Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister, it's about the simplest game he'll ever work. "It's [an] all-hands-on-deck type of deal," he said. "And there's nobody not available to us."

In that way, the guy with the other lineup card simply can't have the same urgency. He'll have urgency. He'll see it as a must-win game. But it's different when it really is win or go home.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 TOR 10, TEX 1 video
Gm 2 Oct. 7 TOR 5 TEX 3 video
Gm 3 Oct. 9 TOR 7, TEX 6 (10) video

"It's kind of tough to answer that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "And we were on the flip side of that last year."

That's one of the strange parallels when the Rangers and Blue Jays play Game 3 of a best-of-five American League Division Series at 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, which will be broadcast on TBS in the United States and Sportsnet (English) and TVA (French) in Canada. The game will also be broadcast in Spanish on MLB Network.

The Blue Jays lead the series 2-0 and can advance to the American League Championship Series for a second straight season by winning on Sunday.

But they also have three chances to win one game. So regardless of how much the Blue Jays want to finish the series off, they're not pushed to the brink.

And they know what that's like. Last year in the ALDS, the Rangers won Games 1 and 2 at Rogers Centre and returned home to Arlington needing just one more victory. The Blue Jays swept Games 3 and 4 on the road and then took Game 5 back home to get to the ALCS.

"Maybe I should call John and ask him how he felt, get his advice," Banister joked. "I know he believes in his club. I believe in our club."

Banister on team avoiding panic

The Rangers are the 31st team in baseball's best-of-five format to start 0-2 at home. Only three have come back to win: the 2001 Yankees, the '12 Giants and last season's Blue Jays.

Here come the Rangers?

"You know it's a must-win situation," Banister said. "There are some decisions that have to be made quicker on the pitching side. You know that somebody, they may not have it. You need to make a quicker decision.

"But, look, there will be no panic. There will be no reactionary-type situation."

Indeed, Banister sent a not-so-subtle message when he walked rapidly into a Saturday afternoon news conference at Rogers Centre smiling and doing a good imitation of the happiest man on earth.

And that was the message from every corner of his clubhouse.

"They have to win three games, not two," Rangers center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "They still have to win one game, and it's the hard one."

There's a starting pitching contrast as well. In 37-year-old right-hander Colby Lewis, the Rangers are leaning on one of the franchise's most trusted players.

Having watched Lewis overcome elbow, knee and hip surgeries only to continue to pitch at a high level for most of his 11 seasons, the Rangers trust him about as much as any team trusts a single player.

Lewis on taking hill in Game 3

He's in the twilight of his career, contemplating how many more years he wants to continue the grind. But the Rangers have no doubt that he'll have enough to give his team a chance to win. If that happens, Banister probably brings his ace, Cole Hamels, back on short rest to pitch Game 4.

"He's going to give you everything he's got," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said of Lewis. "He's a smart pitcher, and that's what we need right now. We don't have anymore chances."

Here's the contrast: Gibbons will hand the baseball to his No. 1 guy, 24-year-old right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who emerged as one of baseball's best this season.

His stuff is overpowering, a 95-mph fastball capable of buckling knees and shattering bats. He was 12-2 with a league-leading 2.84 ERA on Aug. 13 when the Blue Jays began to limit his appearances to control his innings workload.

Sanchez on upcoming Game 3 start

He convinced the Jays to abandon their plan to send him to the bullpen, and now his first postseason start will come on a day that could be special for the franchise.

"This is why you work so hard for moments like these, opportunities like these," Sanchez said. "And I couldn't be more prepared to come out here and try to lock this thing up for us."

Gibbons knows that things can change quickly in a best-of-five series. But he may also have the flexibility to monitor the workload of his young closer, Roberto Osuna.

In an elimination game, he'd have a different urgency.

"This thing is far from over," Gibbons said. "A three-game winning streak in baseball is nothing. We need to keep playing great baseball. Texas had the best record in the American League for a reason. You don't luck into that. They'll be ready to go. So we've got to be ready to go."

Gibbons on 2-0 series lead

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.