A blown save by a reliable closer and an error by an ultra-reliable third baseman cost the Texas Rangers in the opener of a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Eleven walks by Rangers pitchers in the second game made life easier for the Blue Jays.
Maybe Toronto owed the Rangers a mistake Thursday in the finale.
As was the case Tuesday with closer Shawn Tolleson and Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre, the Blue Jays’ gaffe came from an unlikely source. Jose Bautista missed a ground single to right field in the seventh, and three runs scored to lift the Rangers to a 4-1 victory.
“We’ve seen some go against us,” manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s nice to see our home field wake up for us and do something for us. It was a nice break, and really an energy boost for us. To see one of those go our way was really special for us.”
The win prevented a three-game sweep and moved the Rangers a half-game closer to first-place Houston in the American League West. The deficit is five games on the cusp of another big three-game series this weekend against wild-card contender Baltimore.
The Rangers also moved into a half-game lead over the LA Angels and Minnesota the second wild-card spot.
Yovani Gallardo (11-9) scattered three hits and allowed three walks in 51/3 scoreless innings to earn his 100th career victory. He needed 101 pitches to maneuver through the devastating Blue Jays lineup and win his four straight decision this month.
His start Thursday, though, might be the biggest and not just because of the personal accomplishment. The Rangers needed a starter to keep the Blue Jays’ offense in check, and the Fort Worth resident obliged.
“It’s a powerful lineup, but my main thing going into the game was we were just going to be aggressive, aggressive with the fastball and get the guys to swing the bat,” Gallardo said. “I was able to throw just enough off-speed pitches in there for a strike whenever I needed to. You can’t just stay in one spot with the kind of hitters they have.”
Toronto didn’t score until Delino DeShields misjudged the hop on an Edwin Encarnacion line drive in the eighth inning, allowing Bautista to score from first base. A half-inning earlier, though, Bautista and DeShields had been involved in a far more costly mistake.
Bobby Wilson and Hanser Alberto singled with one out in the seventh after Will Venable had singled and been picked off. DeShields followed with another single, and Bautista charged as Wilson turned for home but was stopped.
But the ball never found Bautista’s glove and slowly rolled toward the warning track. Wilson and Alberto scored easily, and DeShields raced home, too, to turn a 1-0 lead into a 4-0 advantage.
“It was an exciting play,” said DeShields, who was 2 for 2 with three walks. “It was fun running around the bases. When I was rounding first, I saw that he missed it but I didn’t see how far it was. When I was going to second, I saw it was pretty far back, and I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got a chance to score.’ ”
The Rangers scored in the first as Mitch Moreland laced a two-out single, bringing in DeShields, but neither offense could muster much thereafter.
The Blue Jays thought they had a run in the second, but Venable made a terrific inning-ending catch as he ran back and dived toward the warning track in left field to rob Cliff Pennington and prevent Ben Revere from scoring.
“If he doesn’t make that catch there, it’s a different story in this ballgame,” Banister said. “I wasn’t sure he was going to get there. To be able to lay out and do what he did to make the catch was incredible.”
Toronto had another chance in the sixth after Gallardo walked Josh Donaldson, the final batter he faced. Keone Kela entered and walked Bautista, and Donaldson and Bautista pulled off a double steal as Edwin Encarnacion batted.
Encarnacion, who homered in the first two nights, struck out on a full-count curveball for a big second out.
“I felt confident in that pitch just because of how many fastballs I’d thrown him,” said Kela, who struck out Dioner Navarro to end the inning.
The Blue Jays had another chance in the seventh, loading the bases with two singles and a walk against Jake Diekman. Sam Dyson, though, got Troy Tulowitzki to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
“As long as we execute the majority of the time, the pitcher comes out on top,” Dyson said.
The Rangers came out on top in a game they needed to win. They got a little help, from Bautista’s error and from a veteran start by Gallardo.