Blue Jays open up ALDS with 10-1 win against the Rangers

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After two nailbiters in both leagues’ Wild Card games, we finally have a blowout. The Blue Jays had no trouble taking care of the Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS with a 10-1 victory on Thursday afternoon.

Rangers starter Cole Hamels unraveled in the third inning as the Blue Jays scored five runs. Ezequiel Carrera drew a one-out walk to kick things off. Hamels got Devon Travis to pop up, appearing to see his way out of danger. However, he uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Carrera to move to second. Josh Donaldson then smoked a line drive that glanced off of the glove of third baseman Adrian Beltre. Carrera scored easily for the first run of the game and Donaldson hustled into second base. The tag play at the second base bag was reviewed but the initial ruling — that Donaldson was safe — was upheld.

Hamels couldn’t regain his composure. Edwin Encarnacion hit a line drive back to Hamels but the lefty couldn’t snare it. Instead, it rolled to Elvis Andrus at shortstop, moving Donaldson to third. Jose Bautista then singled to center field, bringing Donaldson home for the Jays’ second run. Russell Martin walked to load the bases. Troy Tulowitzki unloaded the bases with a triple to right-center, pushing the Jays’ lead to 5-0. The ball appeared to be catchable, but center fielder Ian Desmond slowed up approaching the wall, allowing the ball to drop.

In the next inning, Melvin Upton, Jr. led off with a solo home run. Shortly thereafter, with one out, Elvis Andrus made a throwing error on what should have been an easy 6-3 ground out by Devon Travis. Hamels threw a fastball that catcher Jonathan Lucroy couldn’t corral, so Travis advanced to second base. Donaldson dunked a single to right field, bringing Travis home to make it a 7-0 game.

Alex Claudio and Tony Barnette threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Hamels. However, Bautista made it a laugher in the top of the ninth, sending a no-doubt three-run home run to left field off of lefty reliever Jake Diekman. That pushed the score to 10-0.

All the while, Jays starter Marco Estrada was pitching a fantastic game. The Rangers mustered very little offense against him over the first eight innings — just three singles. In the top of the ninth, Andrus led off with a triple to deep left-center. He would score on a ground out by Shin-Soo Choo. Estrada gave way to Ryan Tepera, who got Carlos Gomez to ground out and Desmond to fly out to end the game. Estrada’s final line: 8 1/3 innings, four hits, one earned run, no walks, six strikeouts on 98 pitches.

Estrada has quietly established quite the postseason resume. Now with four starts (all with the Jays) and relief appearances (all with the Brewers) under his belt, the right-hander has a career 2.67 ERA with a 30/3 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings in the playoffs.

Game 2 of the ALDS will continue on Friday at 1:00 PM EDT as the Rangers host the Jays again. J.A. Happ will take on Yu Darvish.

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.