TORONTO -- The Blue Jays had to fight down to the last day of the regular season to make the playoffs and then beat the Orioles on Tuesday in the American League Wild Card Game. The Rangers had the AL West title essentially wrapped up for most of September, then they clinched home-field advantage on the Friday before the season ended and had three days off before the AL Division Series against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays have had to stay at the top of their game, but Rangers manager Jeff Banister said he didn't think that has been a factor in this ALDS. The Blue Jays won the first two games in Arlington to take a 2-0 lead into Sunday's Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. CT on TBS (English) and MLB Network (Spanish) in the United States and Sportsnet (English) and TVA (French) in Canada.
"I think it's the easy part to look at those days off," Banister said. "It comes down to [Marco] Estrada threw the ball very well against us [in Game 1]. There comes a time when you are looking at success, failure or lack of success … the other player can perform well on the field. Those guys [the Blue Jays] have pitched very well; our guys are challenged. They hit six home runs; our guys, none.
"The days off in between -- we have days off during the season, they have days off at the All-Star break. They know how to handle it. Is there an advantage to continuing to play? Possibly. But these guys didn't go home, draw the shades, flip the switch and say, 'The season is over.'"
Since the Wild Card Game was instituted in 2012, the Wild Card team has advanced to the League Championship Series in four of eight series when playing the team with the best record in the league.
"Obviously, we had four or five days off in between," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "But it's tough to tell. But that's not an excuse. We've been beat the last couple of games because they played better than us."
No starter named for Game 4
The Rangers have Cole Hamels ready for Game 4, if necessary, but Banister has not announced his starter for that contest.
"It's not necessary at this point," Banister said. "What's necessary is a Game 3 starter, and everybody else is available."
Hamels has made just one start in his career on three days' rest, back in 2007, and he's never done it in the postseason. Martin Perez is the alternative, and he was 2-8 with a 5.78 ERA in 15 road starts this year.
• Banister gave Nomar Mazara his second straight start in right field, with Shin-Soo Choo on the bench. Choo started in Game 1. Mazara was 2-for-6 in his career against Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez, and Choo was 0-for-4 entering Game 3.
• Mazara, at 21, is the second youngest Rangers player to start a postseason game. Jurickson Profar was 19 when he started the 2012 Wild Card Game against the Orioles.
• The Rangers are only the second team in postseason history to allow six home runs to six batters over the first two games of a series. The Braves did it against the Astros in the first two games of the 2004 NLDS. One of the players for Houston was Carlos Beltran.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.