TORONTO (Oct. 7) — Perhaps it is no coincidence the Texas Rangers wear the same team–colors as the Washington Capitals. Scarlet–red trimmed in blue and white has stood for perennial underachievement in the Stanley Cup playoffs. “Gutless” may be a more appropriate term for the similarly–clad posse of baseball’s American League. They say that everything is bigger in Texas? Not so today.
The Rangers have lost four consecutive playoff games at home in the past calendar year — all to the Blue Jays. Last October, they marched into Rogers Centre and smothered the most volatile batting line–up in the Majors. Not that a 2–0 stranglehold in the best–of–five American League Division Series meant a whole lot. Texas coughed it up big–time at Globe Life Park in Games 3 and 4, returning the home–field “favor.” Back here in Toronto for the decisive match — likely to be forever–ingrained in our memory — the visitors unraveled like a cheap suitcase in the surreal seventh. A trio of defensive plays that any of our grandparents could have made resulted in errors. Jose Bautista flipped his bat at Sam Dyson; the cement cavern by Lake Ontario erupted in joy, and the Rangers skulked off the field — having blown their massive lead.
I can guarantee you the opposite will not occur, now that the Blue Jays have won the opening two matches of this year’s ALDS in Arlington. The Rangers may hit you with loads of talent. Analogous to the Washington Capitals of 2015–16, Texas put up the best record in its League (95–67, second in the Majors to the Chicago Cubs). But, like the Capitals, the Rangers are going down with a whimper. There isn’t a clear–headed baseball observer between Dallas and Toronto that would put down a plug–nickle on this series continuing beyond Sunday night’s third game at the ol’ SkyDome. Not with the visitors so lacking beneath the rib–cage.
YOU WANT HEART? ROBERTO OSUNA FLAUNTED IT FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN TEXAS. TBS/SPORTSNET
Though it appeared as if they were fading in the final month of the regular season, the Blue Jays have grown a new “set” (as they say). If this series is about gonads, the Rangers are toting marbles. Perhaps even corn–niblets. The Blue Jays, by comparison, are walking around with cantaloupes. Big ones. Squawk like a peacock? It was said the Jays were endangered by their insolent demeanor. Bautista will turn 36 on Oct. 19. He still hasn’t taken a legitimate called strike in his Major League career. So, yes, the boys in blue can be rather galling, particularly within earshot of a plate umpire. But, ask Jeff Banister for an honest appraisal of which disposition he’d rather be leading forth at the moment. The Texas manager will fib. Boldly.
Guts. Balls. The audacity of a night–prowler. Call it what you may, the Blue Jays have bulldozed the Rangers in every–such category since the end of Game 2 last October. Five consecutive playoff wins against the same opponent? Doesn’t happen often — in any sport. Roberto Osuna, he of the apparently–sore pitching–shoulder, pulled a mini–“Bumgarner” in Arlington today, recording the last five outs of the game after set–up man Francisco Liriano took a liner off the back of his noggin. Five outs for a healthy closer in the middle of May is a nifty accomplishment. Turning the trick with discomfort in the first week of October is an entirely separate matter. The Big O of the Blue Jays bullpen therefore personified the difference between these clubs — one that has learned how to win as the stakes increase; the other with a penchant to atrophy.
THE TEXAS RANGERS — CLAD IN WASHINGTON CAPITALS RED, BLUE AND WHITE — CANNOT GET IT DONE AGAINST THE PLUCKIER BLUE JAYS. NOR WILL THEY WHEN THE 2016 ALDS COMES TO ROGERS CENTRE SUNDAY NIGHT. YES, BOOS WILL RAIN UPON ROUGNED ODOR, BUT BASEBALL ENEMY NO. 1 HERE IN TORONTO WHIFFED IN THE CLUTCH AGAINST OSUNA DURING THE NINTH INNING ON FRIDAY.
ONCE THE BALL SETTLED IN KEVIN PILLAR’S GLOVE JUST AFTER 4:35 P.M. EASTERN, THE JAYS AND OSUNA HAD PUT A CHOKE–HOLD ON THE BEST–OF–FIVE SERIES. ALL IMAGES FROM TBS AND SPORTSNET
I picked Texas to win this post–season round, figuring the Rangers had learned from last year’s collapse.
I was wrong.
The Blue Jays have never swept a multi–game playoff series (though the Wild Card victory over Baltimore Tuesday night was technically a “sweep”). All four of the club’s best–of–seven triumphs in the 1992 and 1993 ALCS and World Series (against Oakland, Atlanta, the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia) were achieved in six games. Toronto clawed back to kayo Texas in the fifth and deciding match of the League Division Series last year. So, a form of history is at hand for the Blue Jays.
You’ll see plenty of brooms in the Dome on Sunday night.
And, justifiably so.