Gil LeBreton

No ‘offence,’ Blue Jays, but welcome to October baseball

The Rangers, working out Saturday at Globe Life Park, simply have been better than the Blue Jays in this best-of-five series.
The Rangers, working out Saturday at Globe Life Park, simply have been better than the Blue Jays in this best-of-five series. Special to the Star-Telegram

In the Toronto papers, they spell it “offence,” with a “c.”

But it’s not the spelling. It’s the pitching.

The most-feared “offence” in the American League has sent 87 batters to the plate in the first two games of the AL Division Series, and only 17 have reached base.

That’s a .209 on-base percentage, even with the Canadian exchange rate.

Not good. Not very Blue Jays-like, either.

Was it those darn American umpires, as Toronto fans charged on Twitter? (Except they call them the “officials,” same as hockey).

Was it the decision to close the Rogers Centre roof, an edict that was likened to cutting Samson’s hair?

No. The story of this ALDS, which resumes here Sunday night, has been what it’s been for nearly every October since the New York Giants and Christy Mathewson bedazzled the Philadelphia A’s, circa 1905.

That was some World Series. Five games, five shutouts. The Athletics scored in only two of the series’ 45 innings.

It was the pitching then, and it’s the pitching now. The Texas Rangers hold a 2-0 advantage in this best-of-five series mostly because, from first inning to last, their pitching has been marginally more effective than Toronto’s. It’s been no more complicated than that.

Welcome back to October, Blue Jays.

When he was asked Saturday what it was going to take to turn the series around, Toronto manager John Gibbons said, “I think we need a big outburst with the bats — score a lot of runs, really.

“If you look at our season, we score. We score and win. We score in bunches. That’s kind of our trademark.”

No team in baseball this season scored more runs than the Blue Jays. No team hit more home runs or compiled a more lopsided run differential.

If you watch the Toronto lineup take batting practice Sunday (yes, Monday, too, if necessary), bring your glove. Or a hard hat.

With the likes of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin, the Blue Jays stage a majestic batting practice.

But in October, it isn’t usually the muscles. It’s the feet, like Delino DeShields’ and Rougned Odor’s flying feet.

It’s the “defence” — they spell that with a “c,” too. Like Bautista not letting DeShields’ ball pop out of his glove in Game 2, or Odor’s clutch bare-handed play to end Friday’s 12th inning.

And it’s the pitching, never more so in this series than in the final innings. Rangers relief pitchers have worked 11 innings in the first two games, and they’ve allowed only four hits — three singles and Bautista’s solo homer off Keone Kela.

Welcome back to October, Blue Jays.

The Rangers learned this blunt lesson the hard way in the 2010 World Series, the franchise’s first, when Giants pitching held them to 12 runs and a .190 team batting average.

In baseball’s postseason, good teams have died on the vine waiting for a three-run homer. A lineup had better be ready to embrace the one-base hit, the polarizing sacrifice bunt and the crafty, dust-billowing slide at home plate.

“Their pitching’s really shut us down the last two games,” Gibbons assessed. “Hopefully we can do it [score in bunches] one time, catch our breath a little bit and gain a little confidence. But that’s what it’s going to take, because really that’s the identity of our club.”

No offence, manager Gibbons, but scoring in bunches appears to be off the menu in this ALDS. Teams, even ones with such majestic identities, can look a whole lot different in baseball’s postseason.

Welcome to October.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton, @gilebreton

ALDS: Rangers vs. Blue Jays

Thursday: Rangers 5, Toronto 3 (Rangers lead series 1-0)

Friday: Rangers 6, Toronto 4 (14), (Rangers lead series 2-0)

Gm. 3: at Texas, 7 p.m. Sunday, FS1

Gm. 4: at Texas, 3 p.m. Monday*, FS1

Gm. 5: at Toronto, 3 p.m. Wednesday*, FS1

*If necessary

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