It was a beatdown but this time the bad blood stayed under the surface.
Toronto rocked Cole Hamels for five runs in the third inning and a near flawless Marco Estrada delivered 8 1/3 stellar innings as the Blue Jays thumped the Texas Rangers 10-1 Thursday to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Jose Bautista, Public Enemy No. 1 in Texas, slammed a three-run homer in the ninth inning off reliever Jake Diekman to rub salt in the wound. No bat-flip this time. He put his weapon down gently after the blast to left field, where the fan who caught the ball whipped it back into play.
The Jays slugger was happy to keep the focus on baseball rather than rehash Toronto’s recent Hatfield-and-McCoy-like feuding with the Rangers.
“I wanted to avoid all the questions about the whole ordeal because we’re baseball players, not UFC fighters, and we came here to play ballgames,” Bautista said. “That’s why I wanted everybody to kind of focus on that in our clubhouse. And we did and we played a pretty good game today and hopefully we continue to do that.”
It was Bautista’s fourth home run in his last eight post-season at-bats. He is tied with Joe Carter for most playoff homers by a Blue Jay with six.
Toronto came close to its first complete game of the season — and the first of Estrada’s career. But Elvis Andrus tripled to open the bottom of the ninth and scored on a Shin-Soo Choo’s groundout. Manager John Gibbons then brought in Ryan Tepera to close the door.
Game 2 goes Friday afternoon (11 AM Saskatchewan time) with Toronto sending 20 game winner J.A Happ to the mound against Texas’s Yu Darvish.