The kind of start that a veteran pitcher is supposed to give his team is the kind of start that will be facing Yovani Gallardo on Thursday.
The wrecking ball that is the Toronto Blue Jays swung through Globe Life Park again Wednesday night, though this time not waiting until the ninth inning to beat the Texas Rangers.
Toronto’s 12-4 victory was their second straight to start the three-game series, and only Gallardo stands between them and a sweep that would knock the Rangers six games back in the American League West and possibly cause them to lose more ground in the wild-card race.
“When you get punched in the mouth twice, you’ve got to come out swinging,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’ve got to have our ‘A’ game. We can’t give another one away.
“The guy [Gallardo] has been pitching the ball very well. I know Yo will come out with his game. We feel comfortable with who we’re sending out tomorrow.”
The Rangers’ four-day reign as the second wild card came to an end as Toronto swatted two homers off Colby Lewis and piled on against relievers Spencer Patton and Sam Freeman.
Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki weren’t the ones who beat the Rangers. Rather, Justin Smoak launched a two-run homer in the fifth to break a 2-2 tie, and Kevin Pillar chased Lewis with a homer to start the sixth.
Edwin Encarnacion put the Rangers away with a grand slam off Patton, who replaced Lewis and failed to retire any of the five batters he faced. Lewis and Patton didn’t help themselves by issuing six walks, three of which scored.
The Rangers walked a season-high 11 batters, including Bautista four times.
Gallardo is next to step in front of the firing line. The Blue Jays clubbed six homers in the first two games, have scored in double-digits in four of five their past games and haven’t scored fewer than six runs in five of their past six games.
“It’s obvious they have guys with a lot of power,” said Gallardo, who planned to learn from what Derek Holland and Lewis did in their starts. “They have guys who can cause some damage. We’ve seen the ball go out of the ballpark that is up in the zone. I think it’s just a matter of keeping the ball down.
“Derek made a couple of mistakes on off-speed pitches that were up in the zone, and they capitalized. I think that’s the type of team they are. We all make mistakes as starting pitchers, but it’s just a matter of limiting those mistakes and limit the damage.”
Gallardo has done that in four starts this month, knowing where his outs were as he dealt with heavy traffic on the bases. He has found a friend in an old friend, his curveball, to keep hitters from sitting his fastball.
He relied on that combination two months ago en route to posting the third-longest shutout streak (33 1/3 innings) in franchise history.
The curve also can be a put-away pitch, which he will need against the stacked Blue Jays lineup. It was effective Sunday against a good Detroit Tigers’ offense.
“Whenever I was able to flip that curve over for a strike and get ahead of even in the count, it opened everything up,” Gallardo said. “I was able to throw my curveball over for strikes and for a put away pitch when I had to.
“That’s one of the things I was able to do that I was doing in June. Just commanding my off-speed pitch instead of trying to pitch with just my fastball.”
The Rangers actually led 2-0 against David Price after one inning on the strength of a two-run homer by Adrian Beltre, but they had only two hits over the next fives innings against the former Cy Young winner.
Toronto scored single runs against Lewis in the second and third to erase their deficit, and Smoak, the Rangers’ first-round pick in 2008, stayed alive in the fifth inning until he hit a towering shot into the home-run porch.
Lewis (14-6) was yanked after Pillar found the left-field seats, and Toronto went walk, single, single, walk, grand slam against Patton. Freeman got out of the sixth, but opened the seventh with three walks on 13 pitches. Toronto scored twice.
The Blue Jays had done enough, and in the process put the onus on Gallardo to prevent a sweep Thursday.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760