Jays draw Rangers as first-round foe,
ST. PETERSBURG— The baseball gods owe John Gibbons a big-time favour.
In the hours leading up to Mark Buehrle’s ultimately failed attempt to reach 200 innings for the 15th consecutive season, the Blue Jays manager cited factors like a rainout in Baltimore that forced Marcus Stroman to be backed off a day, meaning he was not available for his scheduled Sunday start. That opened the door for the Buehrle decision, as did shutting David Price down.
Gibbons suggested the baseball gods were hinting that possibly it was Buehrle’s opportunity to reach his goal.
Instead, it all went sour in hurry for the veteran left-hander in a 12-3 loss at Tropicana Field. Buehrle was betrayed by his defence in the shortest outing of his career, two-thirds of an inning.
With the Jays finishing second overall in the AL, they will now host the three-seed, the Texas Rangers, who clinched first place in the AL West with a 9-2 win over the Angels on Sunday.
That Jays-Rangers ALDS begins at the Rogers Centre with Games 1 and 2 on Thursday and Friday. The series shifts to Arlington for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday. Game 5 would be on Wednesday, Oct. 14 in Toronto. The firstplace Royals will play the wild-card winner between the Yankees and Astros which will take play at Yankee Stadium.
The Rangers are the team that could give the Jays trouble. In the regular season, the Jays finished 4-2 against the Rangers.
However, the Jays have not faced left-hander Cole Hamels, who the Rangers acquired at the trade deadline to be their David Price.
Hamels pitched on Sunday and will not likely be available until Game 2. They still have right-hander Yovani Gallardo who is 2-0 against the Jays this season and has not allowed a run in 132⁄ innings. Others in the rota
3 tion are Colby Lewis and Derek Holland.
The final playoff rosters do not have to be set until Thursday, the morning of Game 1. When asked who would pitch Game 2 for the Jays, Gibbons was tight-lipped, suggesting only that it would be the pitcher they felt gave them the best chance to win, regardless of the stadium or venue. The most likely rotation at this point in time would be right-hander Marcus Stroman in Game 2, with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey taking Game 3 and right-hander Marco Estrada pitching Game 4.
The Rangers have a deep and talented lineup, as do the Jays, with speed at the top and power in the middle. It should make for a close, interesting series.
“We get any extra day to prepare,” Jose Bautista said about finally knowing their Rangers opponent rather than waiting for a wild-card winner. “It’s not that much of a difference, but it’s still somewhat of a good feeling knowing that we actually played pretty well against Texas this year. Most of us do pretty well in that ballpark when we play there, too. It’s a hitters’ park just like ours. That’s probably going to help us.”
On Sunday, the karma was all bad for Buehrle. The game got away from the Jays, capped by a grand slam home run to centre field by Joey Butler. The Jays’ 36-year-old lefthander faced 10 batters, retiring just two on five hits. All eight runs against Buehrle were unearned.
“He was around 40 pitches . . . no way I could leave him out there to rot,” Gibbons said of Buehrle.
Jays starter Mark Buehrle heads back to the mound after giving up a first-inning grand slam to the Rays’ Joey Butler on Sunday in Florida.
The Jays’ Ryan Goins tags out the Rays’ Brandon Guyer at second base during Sunday’s game in St. Petersburg.