The Blue Jays have found the visiting Texas Rangers to be a tough opponent, but Toronto has a chance to sweep the teams’ season-opening, three-game series on Sunday afternoon.
After overcoming a 7-0 deficit to win the season opener 10-8 on Friday night, the Blue Jays defeated the Rangers again on Saturday, 4-3.
In each game, Jordan Romano earned the save. Dating to last season, he has converted 25 consecutive save opportunities.
Santiago Espinal stroked what turned out to be the game-winning hit in the sixth inning Saturday, a pinch-hit RBI double.
It was the second game in a row that Espinal drove in a run with a double after coming on as a sub for second baseman Cavan Biggio. Espinal took over at second in each game and played well in the field.
Espinal put on 15 pounds during the offseason.
“I did add muscle and it has paid off,” Espinal said. “I’m able to drive the ball much better than I did last year. I can tell by my swing, even in (batting practice).”
“Any chance he gets, he produces,” said teammate Bo Bichette, who hit a solo home run on Saturday. “That’s a special quality to be able to stay locked in at all times. Obviously he’s helped us a lot. I’m excited for him to do so well.”
One difference between the teams in the series has been that Toronto’s success at scoring two-out runs.
“Yeah, that’s a little frustrating,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “You’ve got to be able to finish innings. You’ve got to get zeros after scoring and you’ve got to score after getting zeros. There are lots of little things that lead to winning. Two-out runs are a backbreaker.”
The Blue Jays’ starter on Sunday will be left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu, who went 14-10 with a 4.37 ERA in 31 starts last year.
Ryu has faced the Rangers twice in his career, both times in 2021. He threw seven innings in each start and went 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA. He allowed a total of 10 hits while striking out 11 and walking one.
Right-hander Spencer Howard is expected to be the Rangers’ primary pitcher on Sunday, possibly following an opener. He went a combined 0-5 with a 7.43 ERA in 19 games (15 starts) last year for the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas.
He has faced the Blue Jays once in his career, allowing one run in 3 2/3 innings in a start for the Phillies on Aug. 20, 2020. He did not factor in the decision.
Jon Gray, the Rangers’ Opening Night pitcher, was placed on the injured list on Saturday because of a finger blister.
The blister opened during the third inning of his Friday start. Gray had allowed one baserunner through the first three innings, making heavy use of his slider. Because of the blister, he hardly used his slider in the fourth inning while allowing three runs. He did not come out for the fifth.
“It became harder to trust my stuff,” Gray said.
Woodward said, “He made them look silly for three innings and a lot of that had to do with his ability to spin the baseball. So, if he’s going to try to pitch through it and he can’t spin it the way he normally does, why do that?”
The Rangers recalled reliever Spencer Patton, who was already in Toronto on the taxi squad, leaving them with 11 relievers and a four-man rotation. Patton allowed an infield single and a hit batsman in 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Saturday.
–Field Level Media