ARLINGTON -- The Blue Jays need to go on a run before they can be considered realistic contenders in the American League East. They might be in the right place to get one started.
Toronto's dominance over rival Texas continued on Monday night with a dramatic come-from-behind, 7-6 victory. The Blue Jays scored two in the ninth to steal a victory away from the Rangers just like they seem to have done on a regular basis over the past three years.
A pair of victories in each of the past two American League Division Series. A 3-1 record against Texas this season. It's pretty clear which of these teams has the bragging rights in one of baseball's top rivalries.
"I feel like we've always played well against them," said Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak, who hit his 20th home run. "We know what they've got there in the eighth and ninth inning, coming out of the 'pen. We were able to get to [Rangers closer Matt Bush] tonight, but guys were just grinding out at-bats, getting on base and we got a couple of key hits."
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Monday's game started off well for the Blue Jays as they took a 5-1 lead in the fourth, but the positive vibes proved to be short-lived. In the bottom of the inning, Marco Estrada gave the lead right back as the Rangers sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs to go up 6-5. It stayed that way until the ninth.
Ryan Goins led off with a double and came around to score two batters later on an RBI single by Josh Donaldson. Kendrys Morales delivered the go-ahead blow with an RBI single to left. In Toronto's wins, Morales is batting .331 (40-for-121) with 10 doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBIs compared to a .194 average (25-for-129) with three doubles, four homers and 10 RBIs in losses.
There's a lot of history between these teams, but none of it is particularly good for Texas. Jose Bautista's bat flip in the 2015 ALDS and Donaldson's head-first dive into home last year. With a victory in any of the next three games, Toronto will be guaranteed a winning record vs. Texas for the third consecutive season.
"It doesn't really matter who we're facing," Estrada said when asked if there was added motivation facing a team like Texas. "Yeah, I guess there's a little bit of bad blood between us, but I think it's all in the past now. I don't think anybody really even thinks about any of it, to be honest. We're just trying to beat a team, just like any other team. It doesn't matter what team it is, we're trying to win."
With the victory, Toronto moved to within one game of .500. The Blue Jays have yet to reach .500 and are 0-7 in games that would have gotten them there, but based on recent history, this might be the place where it comes to fruition. For a team that's still tied for last place but remains just five games back of first, it kind of has to happen.
"We always seem to play those kind of games against these guys," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Both starters gave up runs early and really the bullpens shut teams down there until the end. ... On a hot, muggy night, probably not as hot as it's going to be the next couple of days, but after a travel day, I'm proud of that whole group."