This isn’t anywhere the Texas Rangers haven’t been before in the postseason.
They scratched and clawed to earn the home field for the 2011 American League Division Series, only to get whipped in Game 1 by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rangers recovered swiftly, winning the next three games to claim the best-of-5 series.
History will have to repeat itself over the next week if the Rangers are to eliminate the Toronto Blue Jays.
The winners of the AL wild-card game jumped on left-hander Cole Hamels for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, five of them with two outs in the third, and Marco Estrada shut down the Rangers’ offense over 8 1/3 innings in a 10-1 loss Thursday at Globe Life Park.
“Obviously, when you get your No. 1 guy out there, you don’t really envision that,” manager Jeff Banister said. “I’m not going to say that’s how we drew it up for Game 1. However, it’s one game.”
Only an RBI groundout by Shin-Soo Choo in the ninth after an Elvis Andrus leadoff triple kept the Rangers from their worst defeat in postseason history.
Instead, the nine-run margin matches three others for the worst — Game 2 of the 2010 World Series (9-0), Game 3 of the 2011 World Series (16-7) and ALDS Game 1 in 2011 (9-0) in which Tampa Bay roughed up C.J. Wilson and fellow lefty Matt Moore dominated the Rangers’ lineup.
The loss to the Blue Jays dropped the Rangers to 1-10 all time in ALDS home games. Game 2 is set for noon Friday, when Yu Darvish will try to outpitch J.A. Happ and pull the Rangers even before heading to Toronto.
“They kicked our ass today, but we’ve got four more games to go,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “Hopefully, it will be a different game tomorrow and we find a way to win tomorrow.”
Hamels walked three and struck out only one in his 16th career postseason start. It also rates as his worst after allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits, the first five of which came with two strikes as he was unable to put hitters away.
But Hamels could have escaped the third with minimal damage.
He walked No. 9 hitter Ezequiel Carrera with one out, and Carrera advanced to second on a two-out wild pitch. Josh Donaldson then drilled a line drive to third, where Beltre got his glove on the ball and deflected it into shallow left field for an RBI double.
“I saw it coming in, and it kind of got lost a little bit in the fans,” Beltre said. “I didn’t get my glove up quick enough, but I should have got the ball.”
Edwin Encarnacion was next, and he hit a low liner that was headed toward Andrus near second base. Hamels, though, deflected the ball, and the third out again was not recorded.
Jose Bautista knocked in Donaldson with a single, and Russell Martin walked to load the bases. Troy Tulowitzki cleared them with a triple to center field that Ian Desmond appeared to slow on as he reached the warning track.
“I made that play just the other day,” Desmond said. “It just got by me.”
Melvin Upton Jr. started the fourth with a home run, and Donaldson collected his second RBI three batters later with a single to center that sent Hamels to the showers after 82 pitches and only 10 outs.
“I wasn’t able to go out there and really set the tone early and try to help this team get a win,” Hamels said. “I think when you give up the amount of runs I did early in the game it kind of deflates anything and everything of what home-field advantage really is. It was a major letdown for what I was able to not do.
“My goal is to get 27 outs, no matter how they’re taking pitches or putting balls in play. You have to be able to make pitches no matter what. It’s not a matter of plays being made or not being made. I still have to make pitches. I didn’t do that.”
Donaldson went 4 for 4, Tulowitzki was 3 for 5 and Bautista went 2 for 4 with four RBIs. Three of those came on a ninth-inning homer against Jake Diekman.
No bat flip this time.
“I think I have a couple home runs in my career, and I think I’ve only flipped it once,” Bautista said. “So most of the time I do that. Just blown out of proportion because of the moment last year.”
The Rangers’ offense, meanwhile, looked helpless against Estrada, who allowed only one hit over the first five innings. It was an infield hit by Adrian Beltre that should have been an easy out had Estrada not stumbled going to cover first base.
Estrada needed only 55 pitches in the first five innings as he kept the Rangers off-balance with his trademark changeup. The Rangers, who were effusive in their praise of Estrada, didn’t have a runner advance past first base until the ninth inning.
Barring a repeat of the 2011 ALDS, the Rangers won’t advance past the Blue Jays.
“It’s a five-game series and two good teams playing,” said first baseman Mitch Moreland, a member of the 2011 Rangers. “We’ve got to wash this one off and be ready to go tomorrow.”
Rangers vs. Jays
(all games on TBS)
Gm 1: at Texas, 3:38 p.m. Thursday
Gm 2: at Texas, 12:08 p.m. Friday
Gm 3: at Toronto, 6:38 p.m. Sunday
Gm 4: at Toronto, TBD Monday*
Gm 5: at Texas, TBD Oct. 12*