Blue Jays look to make quick work of Rangers
TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays try to clinch their American League Division Series with the Texas Rangers on Sunday in the minimum three games.
They need only look back to the ALDS last year, however, to remind them how quickly things can turn.
Last year, the Rangers won the first two games of the ALDS in Toronto and the Blue Jays swept the next three games to take the series.
The roles are reversed this year with Toronto winning the first two games in Arlington, Texas.
The Blue Jays are saying the right things.
"This thing is far from over," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We need to keep playing great baseball. I said (Friday) down in Texas they had the best record in the American League for a reason. You don't luck into that. So we've got to come out and play good baseball. They have as much and more talent than most teams in all of baseball. So they'll be ready to go. So we've got to be ready to go."
The Blue Jays start right-hander Aaron Sanchez (15-2, 3.00 ERA during the regular season) Sunday while the Rangers counter with right-hander Colby Lewis (6-5, 3.71 ERA).
"It's a situation, (an) all-hands-on deck must-win type of deal," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "There's nobody not available to us. But, look, there will be no panic. There will be no reactionary type situation. It will be, I think, a well thought out, decision-making process, however the game unfolds for us. And I think about it this way: What a different scenario sitting here this time last year."
The Blue Jays have injury concerns that could influence Game 3.
They already are without reliever Joaquin Benoit, who is out for the series after tearing a calf muscle running from the bullpen to take part in the bench-clearing incident with the New York Yankees on Sept. 26.
Now they are uncertain about the status of left-hander Francisco Liriano and second baseman Devon Travis.
Liriano was struck on the back of the head Friday in Game 2 by a line-drive single hit by Rangers outfielder Carlos Gomez, a ball that continued into right center. He has been diagnosed with a mild concussion. Liriano responded well to tests Saturday, but there is no timetable for a possible return.
Toronto replaced Liriano on their ALDS roster with right-hander Danny Barnes. Under a new rule, Liriano would not have to miss the ALCS should they advance. Most injured players who are replaced during the postseason must miss the next series, but a concussion is an exception.
Travis was scratched from the game Friday with a sore right knee. An MRI showed a bone bruise and no structural damage. He received a cortisone injection but there is no timetable for his return, either. Darwin Barney replaced Travis, who said he does not know how he was injured.
Sanchez led the American League in ERA this season but had little success against the Rangers.
In two starts against Texas this season, he was 0-0 with a 5.93 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. He allowed six runs in 6 2/3 innings against them the second time he faced them, May 15 at Globe Life Park.
"I don't want to take any game in the postseason as pressure," Sanchez said. "It's still baseball. It's still 60 feet, six inches. You've still got to get 27 outs. Maybe the stakes are a little higher but you try not to put any pressure on yourself ... this game is crazy."
Lewis was 0-0 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays this season. He is 3-6 with a 6.17 ERA in 13 career games (12 starts) against Toronto and 2-3, 5.81 in six starts at Rogers Centre.
Lewis was asked Saturday if he felt a burden in trying to prolong the Rangers' season.
"I don't feel like it's a burden," he said. "I feel like it's an opportunity. ... I feel like it's an opportunity for me to go out, perform, see what I can do, embrace it. So there's not any added pressure or anything like that."