G3: Banister, Colabello, Estrada, Gibbons, New Jacks, Ryan

By Bob Elliott

ARLINGTON, Tex. _ A week ago Sunday morn they gathered in an auxiliary clubhouse inside Tropicana Field.

They were there for a photo shoot, surrounded by lights, back drops, nervous giggles and laughs.

For they were the chosen few the Sports Illustrated cover boys.

Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, John Gibbons, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson made on the SI under the title “The New Jacks”

“Toronto’s October drought is finally over -- but baseball’s heaviest hitters (232 homers!) Plus-221 run differential!) are just lumbering up.”

All were smiling likely after one of Price’s one liners.

And since then ... 

_ A nine-run first with eight unearned runs against lefty Mark Buehrle en route to a 12-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 162.

_ A 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series on Thursday at the Rogers Centre, the Jays first post-season game since 1993.

_ And a 6-4, 14-inning loss to the Rangers in Game 2 on Friday. 

And since the picture was taken their bats have been as frozen as the smiles on their faces in the pictures.

The Jays were winless arriving at Globe Life Park Sunday night a loss away from elimination in the best-of-five American League Division Series. There was the awful loss last Sunday -- a nine-run first with eight unearned runs against lefty Mark Buehrle in a 12-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 162, then two Rogers Centre losses to the Texas Rangers. 

Marco Estrada ... a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Could he make it a week to remember?

Or a week to forget?

Estrada pitched 6 1/3 inning allowing one run as they lived to fight another day scoring three of the first six innings on the way to a x-x win. Texas now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 at 4:07 Monday. R.A. Dickey will face lefty Derek Holland. 

If the Jays win there will be a Game 5 Wednesday at the Rogers Centre.

But the Jays used some bullets to win this one -- Aaron Loup, Mark Lowe, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna pitched, while David Price warmed up. Price will be available in Game 4. 

After managing three walks -- one each to Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion -- in the 23 innings it took to play the first two games, the Jays match that in a three batter stretch in the fourth leading 1-0. With Donaldson on third and none out, manager Jeff Banister walked Encarnacion intentionally. 

Chris Colabello walked and then Tulowitzki toook ball four from lefty Martin Perez to knock in a run and put the Jays up 2-0. 

Two innings later with two out, Tulowitzki hit a 3-2 pitch for a three-run homer and a 5-0 lead. 
Lefty Aaron Loup took over for Estrada with runners on second and third in the seventh. He retired Rougned Odor on a grounder to Tulowitzki as Elvis Andrus scored on the play.

Facing the lefty would have been the domain of the Jays best reliever Brett Cecil, who tore his calf covering first base in Friday’s loss, but he’s done for the season.

Bannister was asked before the game how much the Jays would miss Cecil?

“The way this game is, they can not have a lot of things and still go out and play a really good game,” Banister told reporters. “That’s a really good club over there with some extremely talented players. They did some significant things this year. Our ballclub has to go out and play well. Stay focused. Not look up.

“In my mind, we’re 0-0. It’s not about we’ve got two in the bank. B.S. It’s zero. You want to get to where you want to go to, you’ve got to stay focused, determined. For me, it’s not about what they don’t have but what they do have. They have a very talented club. If we don’t continue to think that way, we might look up in a couple days and be upset.”

The Blue Jays manager was asked if he was sorry that he “eased off on the pedal” after the Jays clinched the American League East wild card on Wednesday in Game 1 of the doubleheader in Baltimore, Game 157 of the season.

He did not play his regulars that night in Game 2 or on Thursday as the night game was moved up to a noon start due to the threat of bad weather. Other clinching teams gave their regulars the day off after the champagne celebration.

“They had one day off,” Gibbons said, “they played Wednesday, had Thursday off and then we flew to Tampa Bay.

“It’s not like we had 3-to-4 days off. We had one day off. Anything else is inaccurate. We won Friday and lost a lead on Saturday. We tried to win all three.”

Gibbons said that his team do not seem “more tense” than normal and how sometimes he’s has seen teams that are nervous but his players “don’t seem like they are frozen.”

Their bats could be mistaken for frozen. The Jays have completed one game of their mission.    

Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion, who combined for 120 of the Jays 232 homers this season, were 5-for-25 (.200) with solo home runs by Bautista and Donaldson. As a team the Jays are hitting .171 (14-for-82), which includes shortstop Troy Tulowitzki going hitless in 10 at-bats. 

Despite their 2-0 lead, the Rangers are batting only .198 (16-for-81).

While Estrada tries to hold the Rangers off the board, the Jays will try to put up some runs against lefty Martin Perez who they have never seen. 

Usually the advantage goes to the pitcher facing a team for the first time.

Although ... drum roll ... we do remember seeing lefty Wilson Alvarez make his major-league debut July 24, 1989 at Arlington Stadium, which used to be down the street.

Alvarez went 102-92 in his 14-year career, but on this night:

Junior Felix singled, Tony Fernandez hit a two-run homer, Kelly Gruber homered, George Bell walked and Fred McGriff walked.

That was that for Alvarez after 33 pitches without retiring a man and having an ERA of infinity.  
Perez lost a start against Tampa Bay in the 2013 wild-card game, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings. 

Perez’s sinker improved late in the season. He has allowed only three homers in 78 2/3 innings overall and one in 35 2/3 innings at home in the regular season.


NO MORE NOLAN: With Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan gone to join the Houston Astros, the pre-game video display no longer shows Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura charging the mound after being brushed back.
Ryan laid a Texas whopping on Ventura punching Ventura repeatedly. 


ALDS REVIEW: From ESPN The Sports Reporters on Sunday morning:

Toronto’s John Saunders, a Blue Jays fan: “Some people, ahem, thought that the Toronto Blue Jays would have an easy time ...”

Mike Lupica: “You mean the whiny Toronto Blue -- ‘why don’t they throw us fastballs?’ Jays? Those Toronto Blue Jays?”