ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rangers seemed to have everything lined up perfectly going into the postseason, with their two aces ready to go at home for the start of the AL Division Series.
Instead, the AL West champions are headed to Toronto facing the possibility of getting swept in the best-of-five matchup after Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish both struggled.
“We’ve got a good team. We all believe in each other,” All-Star center fielder Ian Desmond said. “Just keep on fighting.”
Darvish allowed a career-worst four homers, three in the same inning , and Texas lost 5-3 on a dreary, misty Friday afternoon in Texas.
That came a day after All-Star lefty Hamels, the MVP of the World Series and NLCS for Philadelphia in 2008, allowed seven runs in 3 1-3 innings in his worst-ever postseason start in a series-opening 10-1 romp by the wild-card Blue Jays.
But the Rangers also remember what happened last October, when Toronto lost the first two games of the ALDS at home before rallying to win the series.
“Why can’t we do it this year, too? You never know until the last out,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We still believe that we can win this series.”
Game 3 is Sunday night.
“We’re up against it. We’ve got to win three in a row,” second-year Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ve got to start with one.”
Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion, who ended the AL wild-card game with a three-run homer in the 11th inning, hit solo homers in a five-batter span in the fifth to go up 5-0. Troy Tulowitzki’s two-run drive in the second put 20-game winner J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays ahead to stay.
“I was struggling with the strike zone and then was getting behind in the count and they were looking for the fastballs,” Darvish said through his interpreter. “And when I left it on the plate, they got it.”
It was only Darvish’s second postseason appearance in his five seasons with the Rangers after coming from Japan. The right-hander lost the 2012 AL wild-card game to Baltimore, and missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery.
Darvish had as many strikeouts (four) in his five innings as homers allowed, becoming the first pitcher in the postseason to allow four homers in a game since Minnesota’s Rick Reed against Oakland in Game 3 of the 2002 ALDS. He stared upward in disbelief after the balls landed in the seats.
Texas outhit the Blue Jays 13-6 and had multiple runners on base against Happ in each of the first four innings. The only time they scored off the lefty was on Ian Desmond’s RBI single in the fourth.
The Rangers have lost five straight ALDS games to Toronto since winning the first two games in Toronto last October. Texas dropped to 1-11 in ALDS games in its home ballpark.
Texas scored twice in the eighth, including Carlos Gomez’s single that struck Francisco Liriano near the back of the head. The pitcher walked off the mound, and an ambulance was waiting after the game. But he was cleared to fly home with the Blue Jays that evening after being checked out at a hospital.
The ball off Gomez’s bat was measured at 102 mph, and Liriano turned away just in time to avoid being hit in the face.
“It’s tough to see that, but it’s part of the game,” Gomez said.
Roberto Osuna, the 21-year-old closer, then came on to get the final five outs, the first when Desmond greeted him with an RBI grounder. Adrian Beltre had a leadoff double in the ninth, but got stranded there.
OUT AT HOME
Desmond had a leadoff double in the seventh, but later was thrown out at the plate when third baseman Josh Donaldson fielded a grounder and threw home. The out call stood after a replay challenge by the Rangers.
“The fact that we’re talking about that is kind of what the issue is. … That shouldn’t have been a make-or-break,” Desmond said. “Obviously, I’ve got to score. It was a tough play.”
At first pitch, it was overcast with a temperature of 67 degrees, but the game started on time after rain fell overnight and in the early-morning hours at Globe Life Park. It was 90 degrees Thursday at the start of the series opener that was played under bright, sunny conditions.
Blue Jays: One of the two losses by RHP Aaron Sanchez, the AL ERA leader at 3.00, was to Texas. He gave up a season high-matching six runs and was the loser in that May 15 game with the bench-clearing brawl after Toronto star Jose Bautista was punched by Rougned Odor.
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in nine career postseason games (eight starts) for Texas. In 2010, he won the AL Championship Series clincher to get the Rangers to their first World Series, and beat San Francisco in Game 3 for their only victory in that series.