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Thursday, October 6, 2016

BLUE JAYS LEAD ALDS 1-0


ARLINGTON, Texas - It was a beatdown but this time the bad blood stayed under the surface.

Toronto rocked Cole Hamels for five runs in the third inning and a near flawless Marco Estrada delivered 8 1/3 stellar innings as the Blue Jays thumped the Texas Rangers 10-1 Thursday to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

Jose Bautista, Public Enemy No. 1 in Texas, slammed a three-run homer in the ninth inning off reliever Jake Diekman to rub salt in the wound. No bat-flip this time. He put his weapon down gently after the blast to left field, where the fan who caught the ball whipped it back into play.

The Jays slugger was happy to keep the focus on baseball rather than rehash Toronto's recent Hatfield-and-McCoy-like feuding with the Rangers.

"I wanted to avoid all the questions about the whole ordeal because we're baseball players, not UFC fighters, and we came here to play ballgames,'' Bautista said. "That's why I wanted everybody to kind of focus on that in our clubhouse. And we did and we played a pretty good game today and hopefully we continue to do that.''

It was Bautista's fourth home run in his last eight post-season at-bats. He is tied with Joe Carter for most playoff homers by a Blue Jay with six.

Toronto came close to its first complete game of the season - and the first of Estrada's career. But Elvis Andrus tripled to open the bottom of the ninth and scored on a Shin-Soo Choo's groundout. Manager John Gibbons then brought in Ryan Tepera to close the door.

"Two outs away from finishing it. Unfortunately I couldn't,'' said Estrada, who failed to convince Gibbons to keep him in. "But who cares, we won. That's all that matters.''

Estrada (1-0) gave up one run in 8 1/3 innings on four hits with six strikeouts in a 98-pitch performance with 72 strikes. He becomes the third Jay in playoff history to record a start of eight-plus innings while giving up one run or less (Dave Stieb, 1985, and David Cone, 1992).

In contrast, Hamels allowed a playoff career-high seven runs in the shortest outing of the 2008 World Series MVP's post-season career.

While Bautista relishes the big stage, Estrada says he treats it like any other game.

"I don't change anything. I just think of it as another regular-season game. Why am I going to add extra pressure on myself?''

Toronto's performance had many rushing to the record books.

ESPN Stats says the Jays are just the third team in post-season history to win Game 1 of a best-of-five series by at least nine runs on the road (joining the 2002 Cardinals and 2011 Rays). It also notes that teams up 1-0 in a best-of-five MLB post-season series win the series 70 per cent of the time, although it didn't work for Texas last year against Toronto.

It was 32 degrees under the sun at first pitch before a sellout crowd of 47,434 that had little to cheer about at Globe Life Park.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister said he does not expect any fallout from the one-sided loss.

"Given how our club has played all year long, and we've been in these type of situations before, look, we've come back and played well after these type of games. And with the veteran group that we have in there, I don't worry about the collateral damage in a game like this. Obviously we would have liked to have a played a lot more competitively. But the other thing that you've got to look at, too, is Estrada threw a heck of a game.''

Neither team will have much time to reflect on it, given Game 2 starts at noon local time.

(Canadian Press/Neil Davidson)

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