The Toronto Blue Jays moved within one victory of reaching the American League Championship Series with a 5-3 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 2 of the division series on Friday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.

Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer in the second inning, and the Jays never relinquished the lead, though there was plenty of drama over the final three innings. J.A. Happ, who went 20-4 in the regular season, picked up the win after giving up just one run over five innings of work.

Toronto, which captured Game 1 of the series by a 10-1 score on Thursday, is starting to pick up a lot of steam after surviving an 11-inning wild-card battle with the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays now return home to Rogers Centre with an eye on closing out the series in Sunday’s Game 3.

The Blue Jays jumped out in front in the second inning, which started with an always dangerous leadoff walk to Jose Bautista. Sure enough, the visitors took full advantage two batters later when Tulowitzki crushed a homer to left to grab the early lead.

Statcast provided further details about the supercharged blast from the five-time All-Star:

A two-out rally allowed the Rangers to get back within one in the fourth.

They belted out three consecutive singles courtesy of Nomar Mazara, Carlos Gomez and Ian Desmond, who brought home Mazara with his base knock to center. A weak groundout by Carlos Beltran brought an end to the threat, though.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News noted Happ’s struggles the third time through an order, which is when the Rangers got on the scoreboard:

Not being able to generate more runs in the fourth inning was a turning point because the Jays responded with three runs in the fifth.

Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion all connected on solo homers in a five-batter span to give the Blue Jays a 5-1 lead. The explosion of power against Yu Darvish is rare, as he gave up just 12 long balls in 17 starts during the regular season. 

Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News pointed out the Texas starter tied the wrong kind of record: 

ESPN Stats & Info passed along another interesting stat concerning the fifth-inning meltdown:

The Rangers missed an opportunity to trim the lead in the seventh. Desmond started the frame with a double and advanced to third on a groundout. He tried to score on another grounder, this one by Adrian Beltre, but a slight hesitation allowed Josh Donaldson to throw him out on a bang-bang play.

Ari Shapiro of Jays Journal commented on a tough start to the series for the center fielder:

There was still a chance to rally after a walk to Rougned Odor put two runners on base. But Jason Grilli got Jonathan Lucroy to pop out in foul territory to end the inning.

Texas got two runs back in the eighth, which featured a scary moment involving Toronto reliever Francisco Liriano. Carlos Gomez hit a line drive right back through the box that struck Liriano hard before ricocheting into center for an RBI single.

Barry Davis of Sportsnet discussed the chilling moment, which even made Gomez cringe as he ran toward first base:

The Rangers added another run on a groundout by Desmond, but closer Roberto Osuna struck out Beltran to prevent any further damage and preserve the lead into the ninth.

After a scoreless top of the ninth, Beltre gave the Rangers a glimmer of hope by leading off the bottom of the inning with a double. Osuna responded by getting the next three hitters out in order to secure the victory, inducing Mitch Moreland to fly out to end it.

SportsCenter spotlighted the key stat coming out of the Jays’ two wins in Texas:

Looking ahead, along with being in a favorable position in the series, the Jays’ outlook for the entire postseason has become far more optimistic since Tuesday. They struggled during the final month of the season, but that extra-inning triumph over Baltimore seems to have provided the spark they needed.

Now the focus is on closing out the Rangers as quickly as possible, both to avoid a potential comeback and to get some extra rest for the pitching staff. Aaron Sanchez gives Toronto an advantage on the mound in Game 3 with Colby Lewis being his expected counterpart for Texas.

On the flip side, the Rangers need to start coming up with more hits in clutch situations if they want to climb out of the 2-0 hole. They had a couple of chances for big innings Friday and just couldn’t capitalize, and that’s always problematic against a club with as many power bats as the Blue Jays have.


Postgame Reaction

Steve Argintaru of TSN passed along an update on Liriano from Blue Jays manager John Gibbons:

Meanwhile, Rangers manager Jeff Banister lamented the fact a handful of bad pitches is all it took to turn the game in Toronto’s favor, per Daniel Kramer of

“Four unexecuted pitches is what it boils down to,” he said.

Andy Newberry of the Times Record News noted the Texas bench boss quickly turned the focus to the rest of the series.

“We have to win three in a row; it starts with one,” Banister said.


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