TORONTO — From a game that had everything, the Toronto Blue Jays left with nothing.
After yielding two runs to the Rangers with two outs in the 14th inning in a crushing 6-4 loss Friday, the Jays headed to Texas knowing that one more slip-up will be their last in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
Texas won the opener Thursday 5-3, beating Jays ace David Price.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Toronto strutted its way to the AL East title, hammering balls over fences wherever it went.
But the AL West champion Rangers have proven to be a formidable foe, with depth, character and good pitching.
“The task at hand is pretty simple — we have to win or we go home,” said Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who stirred the pot several times Friday. “That being said I like our chances just for the fact of the team we have in here.”
The action switches to Arlington for games Sunday and, if necessary, Monday. It’s up to Marco Estrada to keep the series alive in a matchup with Martin Perez at Globe Life Park.
“It won’t be easy, they got a great team over there,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “They outplayed us both games.
“Today was a great ball game … they outlasted us,” he added. “It doesn’t surprise me because they got that good a team. They can keep coming. Very balanced.
“They’ve got some real good arms they can keep in the bullpen.”
Toronto appears to have lost one of its top arms in reliever Brett Cecil, who pulled up lame after taking part in a rundown and was later seen wearing a walking boot. Gibbons said the left-hander had a “pretty significant tear in his calf, so that’s not very good.”
Neither bullpen blinked until the 14th inning of a game that came in three minutes shy of five hours.
Jays nemesis Rougned Odor beat out an outfield single off LaTroy Hawkins, the Jays’ seventh pitcher, to start the two-out rally. Chris Gimenez then singled with Odor escaping a tag at second on the play after a video review.
Hanser Alberto’s single up the middle scored Odor, with Gimenez moving to third and Alberto to second. Delino DeShields then beat out an infield single off Liam Hendriks to drive in Gimenez.
Alberto, who was in for the injured Adrian Beltre, used one of DeShields’ bats for the key hit after taking a liking to it in batting practice.
“You look up and down the lineup and you track us throughout the year, it’s not surprising that somebody at the end of that bench or end of that lineup contributes to what we’ve got going on because that’s how we play the game,” said Texas manager Jeff Banister.
Russ Ohlendorf took care of the Jays in the bottom of the 14th, hitting Russell Martin with a pitch with two outs before striking out Kevin Pillar.
Five Rangers relievers combined to limit the Jays to two hits in seven innings.
Friday’s game ranks as Toronto’s longest post-season game by innings. The Jays, now 3-2 in playoff extra innings, have gone to 11 innings on three previous occasions.
The game was a baseball smorgasbord, with something for all tastes. Good pitching, great fielding, managerial moves and tactical hitting.
Not to mention drama.
The bench emptied with one out in the 13th after Donaldson hit a blast just foul to left-field with one out. Keone Kela, the fifth Rangers pitcher, took umbrage at Donaldson’s salty post-pitch comments and had to be held back. Nothing came of the incident, however.
“We made eye contact and exchanged a few words,” said Donaldson. “He didn’t back down and I didn’t back down.”
After Donaldson struck out and Jose Bautista walked, Edwin Encarnacion flied out to the warning track in centre field.
Donaldson, the Jays MVP candidate, had homered in the first inning just hours after going through a concussion check necessitated by a collision in Thursday’s game.
Both bullpens did their job as the innings kept coming.
Jays closer Roberto Osuna pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and 10th. Rangers left-hander Jake Diekman, hitting 99 m.p.h. at times, matched him both innings.
Texas had the winning run on third with two outs in the 11th after a pair of Mark Lowe walks but left-hander Aaron Loup rescued the former Ranger by inducing Josh Hamilton to fly out.
Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey made it to third with two outs in the 12th after Chris Colabello opened the inning with a single, but Shawn Tolleson shut down the Jays’ rally.
Texas’ Will Venable got on with a broken bat single off Aaron Sanchez with two outs in the 13th but nothing more came of it.
Neither team seemed too happy with umpire Vic Carapazza’s strike zone.
“There was complaining on both sides, but it’s behind us,” said Gibbons.
The game was a duel between Marcus Stroman and Rangers ace Cole Hamels for seven innings.
Stroman left with a 4-3 lead after yielding a leadoff single to DeShields in the eighth. But Cecil could not hold down the fort.
After a sacrifice bunt moved DeShields to second, Cecil struck out Prince Fielder. Pinch-hitter Mike Napoli singled to bring DeShields home and tie the game 4-4. Napoli was caught in a rundown after being picked off to end the threat.
A raucous crowd of 49,716 watched under the Rogers Centre dome, with fans elsewhere doing their best to balance work and play with a lunchtime start that stretched into Happy Hour.
There were gutsy performances all-round in an entertaining game that started with a bit of everything before settling back to the expected showdown between Stroman and Hamels. Colabello also had a starring role, putting on a show at first base for the Jays.
The wild start saw the two team tied 3-3 after two innings that featured six runs, six hits and two errors.
Donaldson, who took a knee to the head Thursday in breaking up a double play, was cleared to play after passing concussion protocols. He wasted little time proving his fitness by slamming a solo homer to centre field in the bottom of the first on a 3-2 delivery from Hamels.
For Stroman, it was another remarkable chapter in his comeback story from spring training knee surgery. He has yet to lose in five starts since returning in early September, posting four wins and Friday’s no-decision.
The right-hander scattered five hits over seven innings, giving up three runs — two earned — with five strikeouts and two walks. He had retired 18 of his last 21 before giving way.
Hamels went seven innings, giving up four runs — two earned — on six hits with six strikeouts.
Stroman retired 14 straight before walking Mitch Moreland with two out in the sixth. He followed that by striking out Elvis Andrus, pounding his chest as he left the mound.
As Stroman found his groove, the Jays defence began to batten down the hatches with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Bautista — recovered from Thursday’s hamstring cramp — making dazzling fielding plays in the fifth and seventh innings, respectively.
Colabello, playing first base like Dominik Hasek, was a one-man wrecking crew for Toronto. He had an unassisted double play in the first inning, drove in a run in the second and hoovered up ground balls all day long.
It was only the fifth unassisted ground ball double play by a first baseman in post-season history, according to Baseball Reference.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press