The Blue Jays did not need to turn around an entire series to skip past the Rangers to advance to the ALCS this time. The Jays took a 2-0 series lead with a 10-1 victory in Game 1 and a 5-3 victory in Game 2. In Game 3, they fought tooth and nail with the Rangers before walking off 7-6 winners on an exciting final play in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The Rangers took their first lead of the ALDS in the top of the first inning when Carlos Beltran drove in Carlos Gomez with a ground out, but it was short lived. The Blue Jays responded with three runs in the bottom half as Edwin Encarnacion blasted a two-run home run — his first at-bat at the Rogers Centre since his memorable walk-off AL Wild Card game homer against the Orioles — and Russell Martin hit a solo homer of his own to make it a 3-1 ballgame after one.
Elvis Andrus drilled a solo homer to cut the Rangers’ deficit in half in the top of the third inning to 3-2. But once again, the Jays immediately responded in the bottom half. Josh Donaldson dropped a ground-rule double down the right field line to plate Ezequiel Carrera, and Encarnacion brought Donaldson home with a single to center.
The Rangers continued to claw back in the fourth. With Adrian Beltre on first base and one out, Rougned Odor slapped a line drive homer out to center field, making it a 5-4 ballgame. In the sixth, the Rangers finally regained the lead with a two-out rally. Odor walked and Jonathan Lucroy singled, forcing starter Aaron Sanchez out of the game. Reliever Joe Biagini came in but served up a two-run double to Mitch Moreland.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Jays did not let the Rangers hold the lead for long. Facing Rangers reliever Jeremy Jeffress, Troy Tulowitzki hit a one-out single. Manager Jeff Banister brought in lefty Jake Diekman, so Jays manager John Gibbons countered by pinch-hitting Melvin Upton, Jr. for Michael Saunders. The chess game paid off for Gibbons, as Upton hit a double to left field, putting runners on second and third with one out. Diekman intentionally walked Kevin Pillar to load the bases before departing. Keone Kela came in and got Darwin Barney to pop up to third baseman Adrian Beltre, seeming to open up some light at the end of the tunnel, but Kela would uncork a wild pitch while facing Carrera, allowing Tulowitzki to score the tying run, putting the game at a 6-6 deadlock.
From there, it was a battle of the bullpens. For the Jays, Jason Grilli, Brett Cecil, and Roberto Osuna combined for three scoreless innings. Keone Kela tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings while Matt Bush tossed a pair of scoreless frames himself. Bush came back out for the 10th inning and immediately found himself in hot water. Donaldson laced a double to right-center, forcing Bush to walk Encarnacion to set up a potential double play or at least a force at three bases. That brought up Jose Bautista, who Bush was able to strike out. Martin stepped to the plate and battled against Bush. After going from down 1-2 to a full count, Martin fouled off two pitches, then put a 98 MPH fastball in play, appearing to be an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Shortstop Andrus fed to second baseman Odor, who made a throw wide of first base, pulling Moreland off the bag. Donaldson never stopped running, rounding third base and motoring towards home. Moreland regained his balance but Donaldson dove into home plate in plenty of time.
Banister had the umpires review the play for possible interference, but none was found, officially making the Blue Jays ALDS winners, sweeping the Rangers in three games. The Blue Jays will await the winner of the Red Sox/Indians ALDS series, which the Indians currently lead two games to none. The ALCS will begin this Friday. The Blue Jays are back in the ALCS for the second consecutive season. They lost last year in six games to the Royals, the eventual World Series champions.