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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.

Nationals virtually unveil 2019 World Series rings

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On Sunday evening, the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals unveiled their championship rings online. The Nats took down the Astros in seven hard-fought games last October to win their first Fall Classic in franchise history, with starter Stephen Strasburg winning MVP honors.

As the video highlights about the ring, the Nationals honored “Baby Shark,” a children’s song that became part of the team’s identity last year thanks to reserve outfielder Gerardo Parra. The ring also has all kinds of mementos referencing the Nationals’ triumphs throughout the years, including a reference to 2006, when the Lerner family bought the franchise.

It is a shame that, due to the global pandemic, the Nationals haven’t been able to properly get their rings like past championship winners. But they will, in due time. For now, the players can look forward to receiving their rings in the mail.