RON JENKINS/MLB PHOTOS
RON JENKINS/MLB PHOTOS

Jose Bautista hit another long, punctuating home run for the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs against the Texas Rangers.

This time, Bautista dropped his bat softly near home plate and rounded the bases after a 425-foot, three-run blast in the ninth inning of the Blue Jays’ 10-1 romp Thursday in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Bautista had that emphatic bat flip after his tiebreaking homer in the ALDS Game 5 clincher last October against the Rangers, and got punched the last time the Blue Jays played in Texas in May. He drove in four runs this time, including an RBI single in Toronto’s five-run third off All-Star lefty Cole Hamels.

Marco Estrada took a shutout into the ninth inning. 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.

Estrada has never pitched a complete game in the majors and the Blue Jays didn’t throw one this season. No matter, Estrada gave them all they needed to start this best-of-five series.

The last of the Rangers’ four hits off Estrada was Elvis Andrus‘ leadoff triple in the ninth. Gibbons removed the right-hander after Shin-Soo Choo‘s RBI grounder ended the shutout bid.

Troy Tulowitzki hit a bases-loaded triple for the Blue Jays. Toronto has won four straight overall, including an 11-inning, 5-2 victory over Baltimore in the AL wild-card game Tuesday night.

Bautista was booed heartily during pregame introductions and while he batted in the first inning. There also were chants of “Rougie! Rougie!” — those were forRougned Odor, the second baseman who punched Bautista and ignited a bench-clearing brawl in their last meeting May 15. Odor was suspended seven games.

By time Bautista led off the seventh with a walk, the ballpark was quiet with the Rangers down 7-0. After he homered, a fan threw the ball almost back to the infield.

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.

Ezequiel Carrera was on second base with two outs in the third when Josh Donaldson hit a liner toward third base. Donaldson, who had four hits, had even stopped running, assuming that Adrian Beltre would catch the ball — instead, the rising liner ricocheted off the mitt of the four-time Gold Glover and into left field for an RBI double that made it 1-0.

Encarnacion then had a single on a liner off Hamels’ outstretched glove, before Bautista’s run-scoring single and Russell Martin‘s walk to load the bases.

Tulowitzki followed with a triple deep into the right-center gap on a ball that 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.

Melvin Upton Jr. homered starting the Toronto fourth before Andrus’ one-out throwing error from shortstop allowed leadoff hitter Devon Travis to reach. Donaldson’s RBI double chased Hamels, and Alex Claudio then pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

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. Andrus had misplayed a grounder to start that frame, and dropped an easy toss on what would have been a sure force out.

Source: Associated Press

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