The Toronto Blue Jays stood up to the challenge for the second straight game with their season on the line against the Texas Rangers in Arlington on Monday.
Setting the tone with a three-run top of the first inning, Toronto continued its momentum and didn't let the Rangers back into Game 4 of their American League Division Series in an 8-4 victory.
AL MVP candidate Josh Donaldson followed leadoff hitter Ben Revere's base knock with a two-run homer off Texas pitcher Derek Holland to put the Blue Jays up 2-0 early. Donaldson's display of power was phenomenal as he muscled the Holland offering over the right field fence at Globe Life Park:
TSN's Kevin Gibson referenced how successful Toronto has been of late when Donaldson socks a dinger:
Holland managed to retire Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion after Donaldson lit up the scoreboard, only to allow Toronto first baseman Chris Colabello to go yard and make the score 3-0.
The long-ball trend continued in the second when Kevin Pillar boomed a 416-foot solo shot to left center field. It turned out to be a bizarre instance of foreshadowing as Toronto ace David Price caught Pillar's homer while waiting in the wings to eventually enter the game:
Colabello plated Encarnacion with an RBI double in the third, and Pillar drove Colabello home with a soft single to right.
R.A. Dickey yielded two hits to the Rangers in the bottom of the first but escaped without conceding a run. The veteran knuckleball pitcher gave up only one run and five hits in 4.2 innings before giving way to Price in rare, extensive relief work.
Ben Ennis of Sportsnet alluded to how Dickey received rare production from the Blue Jays' loaded lineup at the best possible time:
The only blemish from Dickey came in the bottom of the third on a wild pitch that allowed Shin-Soo Choo to score. That was rather inconsequential, especially when Pillar notched his third RBI of the day on a seventh-inning single, allowing Toronto catcher Russell Martin to score and make it 7-1.
Price started off fine but struggled the longer he was on the mound. He allowed a two-out single by Robinson Chirinos in the bottom of the seventh and another two runs in the eighth before being pulled after three innings of work that resulted in three earned runs and six hits allowed.
Jays manager John Gibbons is bound to take heat for his decision to pitch Price so long with such a commanding lead. Fox Sports 1's Kevin Burkhardt was among those miffed by Gibbons' strategy:
Dan Szymborski of ESPN offered a humorous theory on Gibbons' polarizing tactic:
Instead of offering the Rangers hope of a rally, Gibbons opted to try to slam the door on any such possibility. It was a bold move that ultimately achieved the desired result, though Price wasn't lights-out by any means.
Cannon-armed reliever Aaron Sanchez got the final out for Toronto in the eighth by striking out pinch hitter Drew Stubbs. That came after Elvis Andrus chased Price with a single that brought in Texas slugger Prince Fielder.
Twenty-year-old Roberto Osuna needed only 13 pitches in a perfect ninth to secure the final three outs and force a decisive Game 5.
In any event, this series is going the distance, as the Jays seek to cap off an improbable ALDS comeback back at the Rogers Centre in Wednesday's Game 5. What's now certain is Price won't be available as a starter, which means Toronto will turn to youngster Marcus Stroman, 24, who started Game 2.
Toronto nearly had a win in tow before traveling to Arlington in losing a 14-inning thriller at home to go down 2-0 in the ALDS. With two hard-fought victories on the road since, the Jays have shown they have the resilience to go with a magnificent roster to advance to the American League Championship Series.
But the Rangers loom as a dangerous underdog and will be fired up for revenge after blowing two chances to advance at their own park. Overcoming such a decisive defeat in Game 4 is quite a tall task, though.