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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.

MLB to move the draft to Omaha on the eve of the College World Series

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SAN DIEGO — We spend a lot of time on these pages criticizing Major League Baseball’s decisions. And yeah, they make a lot of questionable decisions (or logical decisions which serve questionable motives). But in the past day or so they’ve certainly gotten a couple of things right.

First was what we posted about last night: MLB moving to take marijuana off the banned substance list for minor leaguers. This, combined with the recent report that MLB/MLBPA are moving to a treatment, as opposed to a punishment-based regimen for opioids, shows that sense, as opposed to hysteria and optics, is beginning to move to the fore when it comes to baseball’s drug policies. It’s certainly welcome.

Also reported last night — by Kendall Rogers of the website d1baseball.com — Major League Baseball plans to move the amateur draft from the MLB Network studios in New Jersey to Omaha, Nebraska, and schedule it at just at the start of the College World Series. The move has not been officially announced yet, but I’d expect an MLB press release on it before we all get on our planes on Thursday morning.

It would be nicely coordinated too, Rogers says, coming just after the super regionals but before the actual CWS. This would allow the top players expected to go to all be on hand, either as players in the CWS or because, hey, they just got done and would probably be there anyway. It’s way better than putting a six guys in a green room in Secaucus. That’s always so awkward. You can tell they don’t really want to be there and don’t know what to do with themselves. In Omaha they’ll be among their friends, teammates, family, and counterparts. The atmosphere will almost certainly radically change for the better.

It’s still a very, very tall order to ever create the same level of interest in the MLB draft that exists for the NFL or NBA drafts, as the structure of college football and basketball and the fame of its stars is a totally different deal coming in. But this is a positive move forward for the baseball draft. Good job to whoever’s idea it was.