Rangers Draw First Blood In ALDS

American League Division Series:

Game One: Rangers 5, Blue Jays 3; Rangers lead series 1-0

  Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP

Yovani Gallardo held the Blue Jays' offense at bay, Robinson Chirinos and Rougned Odor supplied a HR apiece, and the Rangers bullpen locked down Game One, 5-3. 

David Price completed 7 innings on an economical 90 pitches, but also allowed 5 ER on 5 hits and surrendered 5 free base runners (3 BB, 2 HBP), and 3 of the 5 hits he allowed went for extra bases (2 HR, 1 2B). He wasn't at his sharpest, and the Rangers lineup took advantage of its handful of opportunities, going 2-4 with runners in scoring position. (Hitting with RISP isn't a skill, nor does it have any predictive value moving forward, but in a one-game sample against an ace like Price we will certainly take it.)

The Rangers had 11 total base runners in the game, 7 coming from the troika of Odor (HR, HBP, HBP), Delino DeShields (1B, 2B) and Adrian Beltre (BB, 1B). Chirinos lifted a two-run shot just over the wall in left-center to extend the lead to 4-1 in the 5th, and Roogie added a laser beam down the right field line in the 7th to extend the lead to the 5-3 final score. 

Texas starter, Yovani Gallardo, wasn't someone I thought would be in the postseason mix as early as three weeks ago. It was more of a statement about how well the rest of the rotation was performing than Gallardo completely falling off a cliff, but I was nonetheless wrong. Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Colby Lewis each hiccuped down the stretch of the regular season, and by the time the series with the Blue Jays became official, Gallardo's right arm against the right-handed-heavy Toronto lineup became the best Game One option. Especially after Cole Hamels pitched a meaningful Game 162 vs. the Angels on Sunday. 

And just like the Rangers drew it up, Yovani delivered on Thursday. He only went 5 innings -- which has proven to be typical Second Half Gallardo -- but by surrendering only 2 runs gave the bullpen a shot to hold a lead in the latter innings. He struck out a lone hitter, walked one, and gave up 4 hits. It was an outcome the Rangers absolutely take. 

Leading 4-2, Jeff Banister rolled with rookie Keone Kela to start the 6th; his postseason career began with a bit of a thud, as Jose Bautista deposited an elevated fastball into the stands in left-center, cutting the Ranger lead to 4-3.

But that was about all we heard from Toronto for the rest of the game. As Joe Sheehan notes, the Rangers bullpen retired the next 9 Blue Jays on just 29 pitches (a shade over 3/per) after the Bautista HR, including two perfect innings from Jake Diekman. In the 9th, Banister summoned Sam Dyson for the save instead of Shawn Tolleson, a surprisingly shrewd decision considering Dyson is both (a) his best relief pitcher and (b) a better matchup against Toronto's power, inducing a machine-like 75.9% ground ball rate since being traded to Texas. 

To Banister's credit, he had a solid managerial debut in the postseason. Not only did he set his best overall lineup against the left-handed Price -- using Mike Napoli at 1B with Mitch Moreland coming off the bench -- he also didn't mess around with Yovani Gallardo too much. After only 79 pitches, Banister lifted Gallardo for the bullpen, the real strength of the Rangers as we know them. The recipe for Texas beating Toronto is to establish an early lead and let the bullpen go as long as it has to, and it worked on Thursday. 

This presents the best case scenario for the Rangers, having already clinched a split north of the border heading into the Cole Hamels start on Friday. Assuming Hamels would throw the theoretical Game 5, this means Toronto has to win 3 of its next 4 and at least once against the Rangers ace. They've lost the home field advantage, and won't get to use Price again until Game 4 at the earliest, which would be on three days rest if it happened. 

As for the potentially bad news: attempting to break up a double play in the first, Adrian Beltre hurt his back sliding into second. Evan Grant writes it's a lower back strain, and that Joey Gallo and Ed Lucas are traveling to Toronto in preparation for the worst. Should the Rangers deactivate Beltre, however, he would not be eligible to return until the World Series. It doesn't sound like that's the likely outcome, but it's hard to picture Beltre starting tomorrow based off how he looked after this Hall of Fame at bat.

The Rangers are up 1-0 in the ALDS and have Cole Hamels starting tomorrow. They can do this.