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ARLINGTON, Texas — The Blue Jays are headed back to Toronto, alive and most certainly kicking after a second straight win in Texas.
Backed by early Josh Donaldson, Chris Colabello and Kevin Pillar home runs, R.A. Dickey and David Price combined for 7 2/3 innings as Toronto defeated the Texas Rangers 8-4 to tie their American League Division Series at two games apiece.
The rubber match goes Wednesday at the Rogers Centre, with hope of a happy ending for Toronto’s first foray into the playoffs in 22 years.
“The fact we’re going back is everything,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “We’ve been good at home all year … That’s where we’re best.”
The Jays were 53-28 at home this season and 40-41 on the road. Still the home team has yet to win in this series.
Monday’s victory was almost overshadowed by Gibbons’ pitching strategy, which worked but didn’t seem that popular.
The Jays were leading 7-1 when Price relieved Dickey with two outs and one man on in the fifth.
That meant the 40-year-old knuckleballer was denied a win in his first post-season start. And that Price, Toronto’s ace, won’t start in the deciding game. Instead Marcus Stroman will face Cole Hamels in a rematch of Game 2.
With the season on the line Monday, Gibbons was not going to allow anything to go south.
“Probably not a relationship-building move,” he saw wryly of the pitching change. “But a team win, that’s what I was looking for.”
Dickey, who became the oldest starting pitcher in MLB history to make his post-season debut, was diplomatic although he made it clear he wanted to continue.
“Gibby’s the manager and what he says goes. I’m an employee and sometimes you don’t necessarily like what your boss wants you to do. But I respect him.
“So am I disappointed? Sure, I think any competitor should be,” he added. “But at the end of the day, I’ve said this before and I mean it, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit. And we won today and so we’re going back to Toronto with a chance.”
He said it helped that he was yielding to a “bazooka” like Price, a fellow Nashville native who shares the same agent.
“Has there ever been a game where one Cy Young (winner) has handed the ball to another one? That’s kind of cool,” Dickey said.
But asked if he would have been so understanding earlier in his career, Dickey said: “No.”
Gibbons said he made the move to have Price pitch to Shin-Soo Choo.
“One thing I’ve learned over the years is sometimes the best way you win games is don’t let a team get back into it,” he said.
“I know what kind of offence they have,” he added of Texas.
Price dispatched Choo with one pitch to end the inning.
The big left-hander threw 50 pitches over three innings, giving up three runs on six hits with two strikeouts. Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna finished it off for the Jays.
Gibbons said the outing meant Price was not in consideration to pitch Wednesday. Price saw it differently, saying he would be ready — deflecting praise to Dickey while making a point about his preferred role.
“R.A. threw the ball much better than I did. … He threw the ball fantastic and I wish the scorekeeper would just give him a win because he’s the guy that deserves it, not me.
“That’s not the way I want to win games. I definitely want to help this team win in any way possible, but I want to be out there for 27 outs, not three outs, 4 2/3 (innings). Like R.A. said, we want to win, that’s the main goal. That’s what everybody says every single day. Just win today and worry about tomorrow later. That’s what we did today and we did it well.”
The Rangers said they too will be ready.
“There’s no quit in this ball club. No quit in any one of those players in that locker room,” said Texas manager Jeff Banister.
“Obviously we would have loved to have done it right here in our house,” he added. “Well, that’s not the case. We’re going to have to go do it in another location, and we’re going to play a baseball game.”
It was Price’s first relief outing in five years. He made five playoff relief appearances in 2008 with Tampa Bay.
The six-foot-six left-hander, the losing pitcher in Game 1, is now 2-6 all-time in the post-season. The two wins are both as a reliever and the six losses all as a starter.
After losing the first two games 5-3 and 6-4 in 14 innings in Toronto, the Jays had taken one step out of the hole they had dug themselves when they defeated Texas 5-1 Sunday on the strength of Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run homer.
On Monday, they smacked the Rangers about from the get-go. Texas’ ever present NeverEverQuit Twitter hashtag suddenly was the Jays’ domain.
Toronto led 3-0 before Dickey set foot on the mound. It was 4-0 after two innings and 7-1 after three.
The Jays, who managed three home runs in the first three games, matched that total in two innings Monday for a franchise playoff record. It marked the first time the Blue Jays have hit three homers in a post-season game.
Toronto led the majors with 232 homers during the regular season.
Globe Life Park, a steamy sea of Rangers red and blue with white rally towels twirling, rocked as a ZZ Top track teed up the first inning in 32-degree Celsius heat. But the sellout crowd of 47,679 fell quiet very quickly and some left early.
Donaldson made it 2-0 five pitches into the game when he deposited a 1-0 Derek Holland pitch into the right-field seats for a 381-foot homer with Ben Revere on base. Two outs later, Colabello hit a solo shot 373 feet into right-field.
It was Donaldson’s second homer in the series, with both coming in the first inning. The Jays’ MVP candidate led the majors with 13 first-inning homers during the regular season.
Pillar upped the lead with a 412-foot solo shot in the second inning that was caught by Price in the Jays bullpen in left-centre.
The Jays bats were alive.
“Look, when you make mistakes over the middle of the plate, bats have a tendency to come alive,” said Banister.
Toronto added three more runs while sending eight to the plate in the third to chase Holland, who faced 12 batters in all, getting just six outs.
Texas finally got on the board in the third on a pair of singles and a Dickey wild pitch.
The teams traded runs in the seventh for an 8-2 Jays lead with Texas adding another two runs off Price in the eighth.
Adrian Beltre, the Rangers third baseman, returned to the lineup after leaving Game 1 with a lower back strain. He went 2-for-4.
Jays reliever Aaron Loup was unavailable for the game, leaving to attend to a family matter. Gibbons said he would be back for Wednesday’s decider.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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