Sunday's roundup: Blue Jays beat Rangers to win ALDS
Toronto — Josh Donaldson’s mad dash moved the Blue Jays into the next round of the playoffs.
Donaldson raced home from second base after Rougned Odor bounced a double-play relay in the 10th inning and Toronto beat the Texas Rangers 7-6 on Sunday night to sweep their AL Division Series.
Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP, led off the 10th with a double into the right-center field gap and Matt Bush intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion.
After Jose Bautista struck out, Russell Martin hit a grounder to shortstop Elvis Andrus, who tried to start a double play with a feed to second base. After making the turn, second baseman Odor short-hopped his throw to first baseman Mitch Moreland and the ball skipped away, allowing Donaldson to sprint home and beat Moreland’s throw with a dive across the plate.
“I was at third base when the throw was being made,” Donaldson said. “Once I saw (Moreland) miss the pick, I felt like I had to take a chance right there.”
The wild-card Blue Jays are headed back to the AL Championship Series after beating Texas in an ALDS for a second straight year and will face the winner of the Cleveland-Boston series. The Indians lead 2-0, with Game 3 scheduled for Monday following a postponement Sunday.
Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, who spent 24 years with Cleveland before joining Toronto last fall, said he’d already reached out to one former Indians colleague about a potential ALCS meeting.
“It’s something I’ve tried not to think about,” Shapiro said, “but I texted (Indians GM) Chris Antonetti a two-word text about 10 minutes ago: Your turn.”
Toronto’s bench emptied and swarmed around Donaldson near home plate after his dramatic dash, while Bush kneeled in the infield and watched the celebration. The umpires huddled to review the play at second base, but after a brief delay, the crowd of 49,555 went wild as crew chief Joe West signaled the run counted.
“You’re like ‘Oh gosh, let’s not have a technicality ruin this moment for us right here,’” Martin said. “It was a little bit of a buzzkill at the time.”
Donaldson had two doubles among his three hits and is batting .538 through four postseason games, all wins for the Blue Jays, who had to beat Baltimore in a wild-card game to get to the ALDS.
“We definitely feel good about where we’re at,” Donaldson said. “We’re pitching well, we’re playing good defense and right now we’ve been able to hit the homer. That’s a big positive for our offense.”
The Blue Jays now get four days off before the ALCS begins Friday, and they’re happy to get it.
“Some people like to say a couple of days off might throw our timing off,” Martin said. “I really don’t believe in that. At this point in the year, a couple of days off can do wonders.”
Bautista’s homer and emphatic bat flip in Game 5 was the lasting image from Toronto’s ALDS win over the Rangers last season. On May 15, Odor famously punched Bautista to spark a brawl in Texas, and the broadcast of Sunday’s game showed a fan-made sign declaring “I would rather get punched in May than get knocked out in October.”
Bush had thrown two scoreless innings in relief prior to beginning the 10th. It was the longest career outing for the 30-year-old rookie, who was crucial in the bullpen while Texas finished with the AL’s best record.
Closer Roberto Osuna threw two perfect innings to get the win. His appearance capped 4 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball by Toronto’s bullpen after starter Aaron Sanchez allowed six runs.
Encarnacion had a two-run homer and Martin a solo shot in the first inning for Toronto, which swept a postseason series for the first time.
“Unfortunately we didn’t click at the right time,” Andrus said. “They hit the ball well and never let us feel comfortable.”
Andrus hit a solo homer in the third and Odor added a two-run shot in the fourth. They were the only two homers of the series for Texas.
“We got cold at the worst moment,” Rangers slugger Adrian Beltre said.
Moreland gave Texas a 6-5 lead with a two-run double off Joe Biagini in the sixth, but Toronto responded in the bottom half when Troy Tulowitzki scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s bases-loaded passed ball.
Colby Lewis allowed five runs in two innings for Texas.
Texas has lost six straight postseason games, all to Toronto. The Rangers hadn’t lost on a game-ending play since June 30 against the Yankees.
Washington 5, LA Dodgers 2: Leave it to little-used, light-hitting Jose Lobaton to change the complexion of the Washington Nationals’ NL Division Series with one big swing.
Getting a rare chance to play because of starting catcher Wilson Ramos’ late-September injury, backup Lobaton hit a three-run homer through a strong wind to erase an early deficit. Daniel Murphy provided more-expected production with two RBIs, and Washington’s bullpen threw 4⅔ scoreless innings, leading the Nationals past the Los Angeles Dodgers in a rain-postponed Game 2 to even the series at 1-all.
“I’ve got to try to do something for the team,” said Lobaton, who had one hit off a left-handed pitcher all season before connecting with a curveball that stayed up from LA lefty Rich Hill with two outs in the fourth inning.
“And I’m not saying that I’m going to be like Willy and hit a homer and hit .300. Play hard every day, no matter who is in and who is not,” he said.
After dropping Game 1, the Nationals trailed 2-0 when Hill allowed No. 8 hitter Lobaton to put the hosts ahead for good.
“One bad pitch to a guy that I don’t think anybody really thought was going to be that guy to hurt us,” said Josh Reddick, who drove in a run for LA in the third off Tanner Roark after Corey Seager hit his second first-inning homer of the NLDS. “But that’s what happens, and anybody can be the guy in the postseason.”
Hard to imagine Lobaton would be The Guy, though.
Didn’t even start the playoff opener, sitting behind rookie Pedro Severino, who had played all of 18 games in the majors.
Plus, Lobaton batted only .232 in 99 at-bats in 2016 overall, although his lone hit in 15 at-bats against left-handers coming into Sunday was also a homer, and also against the Dodgers — off Scott Kazmir in July.
This one put the Nationals ahead 3-2, finally getting to Hill — who went 4 1/3 innings — in the unlikeliest of ways. After a walk and two quick outs, he plunked Danny Espinosa for the second time; Washington’s shortstop has struck out in his other five NLDS plate appearances.
That mistake proved costly when Lobaton came through, leading to chants of “N-A-T-S! Nats, Nats, Nats, Woooo!” from a sellout crowd of 43,826.
What made this big bop all the more surprising was that it went over the wall in left, where wind that topped 30 mph was blowing in much of the afternoon.
“When he hit it, there was a bunch of people in the dugout who were, like, cussing, because we didn’t think he could get it out. All kinds of expletives were being thrown around,” Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth said. “And then it snuck over for us. That was the game, right there.”
Nationals slugger Bryce Harper’s take?
“If Mother Nature wanted to keep it in the yard, then I guess she would have,” the 2015 NL MVP said, “but the baseball gods overran her, I guess.”
Murphy has been Washington’s best hitter all season, considered a top contender for league MVP honors this year. Indeed, fans chanted those three letters after each hit as he went 3 for 3, including RBI singles in the fifth and seventh.
Five relievers made it stand up, with Mark Melancon working around a single in the ninth — the lone hit allowed by Washington’s relievers — to earn the save.
Blake Treinen went 1⅓ innings and got the win, while lefties Marc Rzepczynski, Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez combined for seven outs as manager Dusty Baker mixed and matched his ‘pen just right.
“The old man knows what he’s doing, I think,” Werth said with a smile.
And after the NL East champion Nationals wasted plenty of opportunities to score in a 4-3 loss on Friday, it was the NL West-winning Dodgers’ turn to come up short in the clutch: Los Angeles left the bases loaded three times.
In the fifth, pinch hitter Howie Kendrick sent a sinking liner to left that Werth managed to grab while sliding — then celebrated by popping up and throwing an uppercut.
“The wind pretty much had an effect on every ball that was hit out there,” Werth said. “That was ball was diving, knuckling, doing all kind of stuff. Part of why I was so excited was because I was surprised I caught it.”
The best-of-five series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Monday afternoon, with Game 4 there on Tuesday, creating an unusual three-consecutive-days setup in the playoffs, thanks to the loss of a travel day.
“This was pretty much a must-win game for us,” Werth said. “Definitely don’t want to head West down two.”