In the losing clubhouse Friday afternoon, hope was flowing from the mouths of Texas Rangers players right into the gathering reporters’ microphones and then directly into the scattered travel bags.
Consecutive home losses to open a best-of-five series create high demand for hope.
The Rangers’ hopes thus far in the American League Division Series have gone as far as their two aces, a combined 8 1/3 innings before circling down the drain.
Yu Darvish left the Rangers gasping Friday, surrendering four home runs in five innings, and the offense was a staggering 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position in a 5-3 loss that left the Toronto Blue Jays one victory away from clinching the series.
The teams have Saturday off to reset ahead of Game 3 on Sunday. But it’s painfully clear what the Rangers must do to avoid seeing a second straight season end at Rogers Centre.
“We have to win,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “There’s no tomorrow. We have to go there and find a way to beat them. Not only that, we have to try to do what they did to us last year.”
Beltre wasn’t the only Rangers player mindful of the 2015 ALDS. The Rangers won the first two games on the road, only to see the Blue Jays win the final three games to advance to the AL Championship Series.
The Rangers have seen done what they need to do, but they have lost all three postseason series in their history in which they lost the first two games.
Colby Lewis, the Rangers’ all-time postseason leader in wins and ERA, will start Game 3 against Aaron Sanchez, who emerged this season as one of the league’s top young pitchers.
“It’s one game at a time,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “We’ve got no more games if we don’t win. It’s do or die. It happened to us last year, so we can do the same story this year.”
But this wasn’t supposed to be the story, not with Cole Hamels and Darvish starting the first two games. After scoring seven runs in 3 1/3 Game 1 innings against Hamels, Toronto jumped on Darvish.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer in the second inning, and Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Edwin Encarnacion connected for solo shots in the fifth after the Rangers had closed to 2-1 against J.A. Happ.
“I was struggling with the strike zone and then was getting behind in the count and they were looking for fastballs,” Darvish said. “When I left it on the plate, they got it.”
The Blue Jays had to hold off the Rangers, who collected 13 hits and saw the potential tying run bat five times in the final two innings. But the Rangers could only muster two RBI singles in the game.
The Rangers stranded 13 runners, but they believe the timely hits will follow if they give themselves enough chances Sunday.
“I’m partially to blame for that,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “You’re not going to win ballgames like that. You’ve got to get those runs in when you give yourselves an opportunity. We’ve made it really hard on ourselves.”
The Rangers also saw Ian Desmond thrown out at home in the seventh trying to score on a Beltre chopper to third.
Desmond said that he paused to see if third baseman Josh Donaldson was charging the ball. When he stayed back, Desmond took off and Donaldson’s throw nipped him at the plate.
“It was a gutsy play by him,” Desmond said. “You tip your cap. He made a good play.”
Desmond went 3 for 5 with two RBIs, and Carlos Gomez had the other RBI in the eighth on a scary play in which his line drive struck Jays pitcher Francisco Liriano in the back of the head. Liriano was taken to an area hospital for further evaluation, his head bandaged.
Gomez considers Liriano one of his closest friends after coming up together in the Minnesota Twins system.
“He’s my best friend,” Gomez said. “I tried to text him as soon as the game was over. I said, ‘Please tell me you’re OK.’ ”
The Rangers were hoping for the best and are also hoping for the best Sunday. Their season ends with one more loss to the Blue Jays, who gave them a rally blueprint last year.
“Why can’t we do it this year, too?” Andrus said. “You never know until the last out. We still believe that we can win this series.”