By Bob Elliott
ARLINGTON, Tex. _ As they used to say around the batting cage in August?
Blue Jays hitters weren’t referring to whose turn it was, but rather who would they face.
Next is lefty Cole Hamels.
The Jays came to Globe Life Park down 2-0, beat Texas Rangers lefties Martin Perez and Derek Holland Sunday and Monday to square the best-of-five, American League Championship Series at 2-2.
Game 5 is 4:07 Wednesday afternoon at the Rogers Centre.
Hamels has a better post-season pedigree than either Perez or Holland. He’s won seven of 14 playoff starts and could have registered the win in Game 2 at the Rogers Centre allowing four runs -- two earned -- in seven innings. Hanser Alberto’s clank at third allowed the Jays to score twice.
Five of The Next’s wins came in six starts as the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series over David Price’s Tampa Bay Rays in five games.
“We’ll be ready for whatever,” said Edwin Encarnacion, who is 5-for-17 (.294) with a solo homer against Hamels. “If it is Hamels who is next, he’ll be tough. He has real good command of his pitches.
“We had to come here, win and force a Game 5.”
Chris Colabello saw Hamels for the first time in Game 2 going 1-for-3 with a double.
“He looks like he controls all his pitches and throws them all for strikes,” said Colabello, who said he was expecting a Game 5 to happen.
When the Jays flew into DFW (Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport) Friday night they were down 2-0 and a game, a wind-blown homer, a boot or a bad call, from elimination. When they left Monday night they were as even-Stephen as Steve Delebar at 2-2.
“We feel good about ourselves,” said Martin, 7-for-30 (.233) with a homer and three RBIs against the Rangers lefty.
“(Hamels) is a great pitcher with good velocity. He has a plus fastball and a plus change. He’s not the type of guy you can go up there looking fastball, curve or change. You get to two strikes you best be prepared to battle.
“I think the jitters are gone from this team now. We’re having better at-bats.”
Jose Bautista, 4-for-12 (.333) with a double and two walks against Hamels, says he “throws hard for a left-hander and he has the post-season experience.”
The Jays hosting Game 5 ... everyone figured that would happen on Friday night, right?
ON DECK: It probably didn’t help R.A. Dickey that manager John Gibbons watched the Kansas City Royals score five runs in the eighth and two in the ninth on the way to a 9-6 win over the Houston Astros.
The Jays used four pitchers to get the 27 outs in Game 4. Dickey worked 4 2/3 innings (allowing one run), David Price came on with Dickey a win away from being the pitcher of record. Price then pitched three innings (giving up three runs, throwing 50 pitches), Aaron Sanchez retired a man and Roberto Osuna worked a scoreless ninth.
“I wouldn’t be shocked if R.A. is disappointed,” said Martin. “And I wouldn’t blame him. But we had to win.”
Later outside the clubhouse on his way back from the interview room Dickey said he was not “upset” rather he was “disappointed,” that he did not get to pitch five innings.
“I think anyone with a shred of a competitor in them would feel the same way, there’s a competitive nerve that runs through you -- you never want to come out of a game.”
Robinson Chirnos singled with one out in the fifth and Dickey leading 7-1. One out later it was Shin-Soo Choo’s turn. Lefty Aaron Loup was not available and Gibbons was not allowing Choo to face Dickey.
With two hits against Dickey on Monday, Choo was 6-for-13 (.461) against the knuckleballer with a .563 on-base mark reaching nine of 16 plate appearances.
Worse case scenario a two-run homer would have made it 7-3.
Price retired Choo on one pitch, then allowed a run in the seventh and two in the eighth. Price picked up the win but is done for Game 5.
“Soon as David was past 20 pitches he was probably out for the deciding game,” Martin said,
Dickey went 8-1 with a 2.80 ERA for 15 starts in the second half. He did not face the Rangers this season, but was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his last two starts against the Rangers in 2014.
“I care as much as anybody about individual accomplishments, a save, a home run, a win, whatever,” Gibbons told reporters. “When it comes down to it, my job is to manage the team and try to win. I thought it was the best move.
“Probably not a popular move, but that’s what you’ve got to do.”
FAST FACT: Home teams are 11-15 in the deciding games of best--of-five series.
NOW WE GO: LaTroy Hawkins, like our Mike Rutsey, will hang ‘em up when this Blue Jays season ends. And neither want their dreams season to end.
Discussing the Game 3 Hawkins was asked the two-out, three-run homer by Troy Tulowitzki in Game 3
“Once Tulowitzki hit the home run, we were pretty excited,” Hawkins told reporters. “We got a saying ‘now we go.’ And every guy in the bullpen was saying ‘now we go.’ That’s what we needed to get us going.”
Torii Hunter, Hawkins’ neighbour and former Minnesota Twins teammate in Prosper, Tex. texted the reliever two days ago.
“He was in South Bend, watching his son play for Notre Dame,” said Hawkins. “I heard A.J. Pierzynski (in the booth for the Royals-Astros series) made a comment on TV a couple nights ago. Those guys are like family. We text message all through the year, we’ve got a group text message going, it’s been going on forever.
“We keep in contact, we might not talk on the phone but we’re always texting. You see somebody do something good, you shoot him a text, let him know that you’re watching. I was pretty happy for Torii, for what he did for the organization. He provided the leadership that they needed. They played some meaningful games in September. Torii’s that type of guy, so birds of a feather flock together.”
HAPPY THANKSGIVING: It was only 23 Thanksgiving weekends ago families gathered across Canada on a Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays were on the coast playing the Oakland A’s in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series.
Down 6-1 in the eighth, Robbie Alomar doubled off Bob Welch. Joe Carter singled off Jeff Parrett to score Alomar. Dave Winfield, John Olerud and Candy Maldonado singled off Dennis Eckersley cutting the gap to 6-4.
With runners on second and third Eckersley struck out Ed Sprague ending the inning and shot an imaginary six gun into the Jays dugout.
Devon White singled leading off the ninth on the eighth pitch of his at-bat and then Alomar hit a 2-2 pitch -- a no doubter -- to right tying the score. Alomar raised his arms in the air in celebration and that pose should be the statue if and when they erect the first baseball statue outside Rogers Centre next season in the 40th year of the franchise.
The Jays won in the 11th on a Pat Borders fly ball, but it was Alomar’s homer that helped put the Jays up 3-1 in the best-of-seven ALCS, a win from their first World Series making it a most memorable Thanksgiving weekend.
The Jays lost Game 5 to A’s Dave Stewart but won Game 6 as Juan Guzman pitched seven innings while Carter and Maldonado each homered.
RISE AND FALL OF HOLLAND: Injured outfielder Michael Saunders probably wished he was active Monday. When Canada faced Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic in Phoenix it had four hits and two runs against Saunders. Justin Morneau led off the second with a double past right fielder Ben Zobrist. Saunders then homered to right. Chris Robinson and Adam Loewen each singled before Holland retired the men three in order.
Three of the first eight hitters Holland faced tagged him for homers in Game 4: Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer in the first and two batters later Colabello went deep. With one out in the second Kevin Pillar homered into the Jays bullpen where Price was playing catch with Stroman.
Bautista, with a two-run shot, along with solo homers by Colabello and Encarnacion all homered off Holland Aug. 25 at Globe Life Park in a 6-5 win.
FALL BLOOM: University of British Columbia right-hander Curtis Taylor was clocked at 91-95 mph at a recent workout. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder from Port Coquitlam, B.C. is expected to be the second Canadian selected in next June’s draft behind right-hander Cal Quantrill of Port Hope. After interning with the Blue Jays this summer, Quantrill is at Stanford University and is coming off Tommy John surgery.