ARLINGTON, Texas — Cole Hamels kept getting two strikes. The Texas Rangers’ All-Star left-hander just couldn’t finish off the Toronto hitters.
The Blue Jays had five two-strike hits off Hamels, four of them in a five-run third on way to a 10-1 romp in the opener of their AL Division Series rematch on Thursday.
“When you give up the amount of runs that I did early in the game, it can kind of deflate anything and everything of what home-field advantage really is,” Hamels said. “It was a major letdown for what I was able to not do.”
The long three-run homer Jose Bautista hit off reliever Jake Diekman in the ninth inning, before gently tossing his bat to the ground, didn’t really have much an impact on this game. Not like the slugger’s emphatic bat flip after his tiebreaking homer in the ALDS Game 5 clincher last October.
Marco Estrada took a shutout into the ninth inning for the wild-card Blue Jays. The All-Star right-hander with an impressive changeup, who won Game 3 in last year’s ALDS after Toronto lost the first two at home, struck out six without a walk.
The last of the Rangers’ four hits off Estrada was Elvis Andrus’ leadoff triple in the ninth. Manager John Gibbons removed the right-hander when Shin-Soo Choo followed with an RBI grounder to end the shutout bid.
When Josh Donaldson hit a hard liner toward four-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre with two outs in the third, it appeared Hamels would get out of that inning without giving up a run. Instead, the liner ricocheted off Beltre’s glove and into left field for an RBI double.
“I saw it coming in, kind of got lost a little bit between the fans and I didn’t get my glove quick enough there,” Beltre said. “I lost it in the fans or a white shirt, whatever. But I should have made it, anyways.”
Then Edwin Encarnacion hit a soft tailing liner on a two-strike pitch, and the ball went off Hamels’ outstretched glove for an infield single. Bautista followed with an RBI single on two-strike pitch before Russell Martin walked to load the bases.
“When you’re trying to make pitches, sometimes you can try to be a little too fine,” Hamels said. “Sometimes when you overdo it you’re going to miss your spots a little bit.”
Troy Tulowitzki followed with a triple , again with two strikes, to make it 5-0. The ball was deep into the right-center gap, and All-Star center fielder Ian Desmond might have lost when running out of the sun and into the shadows while getting close to the wall during the late afternoon.
“We’d be talking about how great a play it was if he made the catch,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Friday.
Hamels, the MVP of the 2008 World Series and NLCS for Philadelphia, threw 42 of his 82 pitches in the third. He allowed seven runs (six earned) with three walks in 3 1/3 innings, before Alex Claudio pitched 3 2-3 scoreless innings.
The AL West champion Rangers, who have home-field advantage this postseason, dropped to 1-10 in ALDS home games — this is the seventh ALDS in their history.
Bautista was booed heartily during pregame introductions and while he batted in the first inning. There also were chants of “Rougie! Rougie!” — those were for Rougned Odor, the second baseman who punched Bautista and ignited a bench-clearing brawl in their last meeting May 15. Odor was suspended seven games.
After Bautista’s 425-foot blast in the ninth made it 10-0, a fan threw the ball almost back to the infield.
“I have a couple of home runs in my career and I think I’ve only flipped it once,” Bautista said. “Just kind of been blown out of proportion because of the moment last year. So I don’t think there was anything too special about laying it down the way I did, because that’s the way that 99.9-plus percent of the time I do it.”
Melvin Upton Jr. homered starting the Toronto fourth before Andrus’ one-out throwing error from shortstop led to an unearned run. When Texas had errors on three consecutive plays in that shaky seventh inning of Game 5 last October, leading up to Bautista’s homer, Andrus had two of them (a fielding misplay and a dropped throw).
Rangers: RF Choo , who was 0 for 3, had four stints on the disabled list this season. He missed 39 games with a fractured left forearm before returning for the last three games of the regular season.
Blue Jays: LHP J.A. Happ, a 20-game winner, allowed one run in seven innings in a win against the Rangers on May 5.
Rangers: Yu Darvish starts only his second postseason game in his five seasons with Texas. The right-hander from Japan lost the 2012 AL wild-card game against Baltimore, and missed last season after Tommy John surgery.