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Three Strikes: Donaldson’s mad dash lifts Jays to ALDS sweep of Rangers

It took extra innings, but Toronto finished off its ALDS sweep of Texas in a wild finish to return to the ALCS for the second straight season.

The Toronto Blue Jays are headed back to the ALCS. They beat the Rangers 7–6 in 10 innings Sunday night on Josh Donaldson’s mad dash home on a throwing error by Rougned Odor, sweeping the series and beating Texas in the ALDS for the second year in a row. They are the first team to win one of the four Division Series, and will face the winner of Red Sox-Indians.

Aaron Sanchez struggled in his 5 2/3 innings, allowing six runs, but Edwin Encarnacion homered and collected three RBI and Donaldson picked up three hits, including a leadoff double in the 10th to start the rally. Rangers starter Colby Lewis had an early exit, lasting just two innings and allowing five runs. Odor and Mitch Moreland each went 1 for 3 with two RBI.

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Starting off on the wrong foot

Colby Lewis entered Sunday’s game with a career 2.38 ERA in the postseason. He gave up five runs in Game 3, including two homers in the first inning. The Rangers’ starting pitching was awful in their short postseason run; in 10 1/3 innings, Texas’s starters (Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Lewis) allowed 16 hits and 17 runs, 16 of them earned. None of the three lasted more than five innings. That is the key reason the Rangers are out of the postseason in such unceremonious fashion. The Rangers loaded up on offense with Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez, but perhaps they should’ve focused on pitching instead. The Jays offense was just too much for the Rangers pitching staff to handle.

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Encore, Encore

Encarnacion is a fantastic hitter who doesn’t get his due. Overshadowed by Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, Encarnacion hit another postseason home run Sunday night, the fourth of his career. The 33-year-old DH hit 42 home runs this season, tying his career high, and he has hit 30 or more home runs in each of the last four seasons. His 193 home runs are second most in the MLB since 2012, just four behind Baltimore’s Chris Davis. That’s 41 more than Bautista and 53 more than Donaldson. One thing is clear—Encarnacion is an elite power hitter.

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And that’s what he’s been doing in the postseason. When the Jays need a big hit, it’s Encarnacion. More often than not, he’ll be trotting around the bases, his arm cocked like he’s holding a parrot, enjoying the ride.


Looking Ahead

After a pretty easy sweep, the Toronto now waits for the Red Sox and Indians series to finish (Cleveland leads 2–0 heading into Monday’s Game 3). The Blue Jays match up with both teams pretty well. They have an offense that rivals that of the Red Sox, and it can be argued Toronto’s offense is even more explosive than Boston’s. They have the pitching to stay even with the the Indians, if not a deeper starting rotation. And the Jays won Game 3 Sunday in classic postseason fashion—not with the longball but with small ball. They tied the game on a passed ball, and they scored the winning run on heads-up base running after an error. Cleveland made easy work in its first two ALDS games against Boston; the Jays and Indians are clearly the class of the AL, at this point. The Jays have a much better and deeper offense than the Indians, but they don’t have Andrew Miller in their bullpen, a chess piece who can get big outs in the fifth inning or the ninth inning. The Jays in the World Series for the first time since 1993? Party on, Toronto.