On some level, being Texan must be a drag.
All that Don’t Tread On Me, Friday Night Lights, Remember the Alamo, “Texas Forever” nonsense means you can never just take a day off. You always have to be up for it.
If it sounds exhausting, on Thursday it also looked that way.
For whatever reason, the Texas Rangers were not up for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. They could not have looked less up for it had they been stretchered out to their positions and then fanned by clubbies with palm fronds between pitches.
By the fourth inning, their own fans were lustily booing them.
“We’re baseball players, not UFC fighters,” Toronto’s Jose Bautista said later. After all the pre-fight hype, Texas didn’t look much like either.
Blue Jays hitters weren’t so much up for it, as the grateful recipients of all Texas’s small lapses of judgment and luck. Balls caromed off Texas gloves for hits. They fell just out of reach of timid Texas outfielders. They sailed further than they ought to have off Toronto bats, and died when coming off their counterparts’ swings.
Toronto won it 10-1, a scoreline that does not fully capture the game’s one-sidedness.
Everyone in blue had his moment, but the standout was starter Marco Estrada. After only two years as a Jay, his 1.99 playoff ERA has already made him one of the great postseason performers in Toronto history. His only concern in the post-game was that his daughter had missed a day of school to watch him pitch.
“It sucks,” he said seriously. “But she’s only in first grade.”
Long after the game was decided, Estrada continued dealing methodically, further alienating an already demoralized crowd.
It is instructive to watch how a group of people absorbs a profound shellacking in a game that really matters. It says a lot about a place. Texas took its humiliating licks with dignity. The crowd stuck around long past the point most arenas would’ve emptied out.
At a guess this has three contributing factors – the south of Mason-Dixon rule that you may never leave your seat at a sporting event, even if under fire; that there’s nothing better to do on a Thursday night in Arlington; and considering the way they’d all swaggered in, they didn’t want to be seen skulking out.
In the day they had to think about it, the Blue Jays had been careful about trying to look tough with Texas. The shutdown response to any attempts in that direction is a flashback to Bautista getting cold-cocked by that swinging runt, Rougned Odor.
On Thursday, the local broadsheet could not resist running a front-page photo of Bautista reeling away from Odor’s assault. The town – such as it is – wanted very badly to get it on.
Sadly, the Rangers themselves showed little interest in matching their supporters’ bluster. Given a hundred opportunities, not a one of them would provide the sort of bully quote that would get the ball rolling.
The closest we got was Rangers manager Jeff Banister noting that Jays fans getting another shot at Odor “must be Christmas in Canada.” We assume that was a threat since Banister’s on-board circuitry does not permit him to tell jokes.
It may be good politics, but it doesn’t show much confidence.
The crowd tried to compensate. In the prelims, they booed all the Jays. Even the manager, Texan John Gibbons.
As he was introduced, they booed Bautista so hard that that was it for the booing. They were booed out. Everyone other Blue Jay got a jeer, which is not the same thing.
They recommenced their booing once the game got under way and were booing at a major-league level – out of their seats, leaned forward, hands cupped to mouths. As you know from the news, Texas hates with great enthusiasm.
When it went wrong in the third inning – a five-run debacle orchestrated by starter Cole Hamels with the precision of a Hindenburg landing – they got quiet for a while.
Then they turned on their own guys. They booed Hamels. They booed Elvis Andrus when he threw one away. A few of them booed a ball girl when she got twisted up trying to corral a foul. This crowd does to you with their sounds what Toronto does to you with its cans.
“I don’t worry about the collateral damage from a game like this,” Banister said later. I would suggest that when you feel the need to use the words “collateral damage,” you ought to be worrying.
By the sixth, long after their team had given in, the fans were still in it. Trying quite hard, God bless them.
Bautista ended their not-so-fun day at the ballpark with a three-run eighth-inning home run. After he’d done it, he laid his bat down on the ground like he was putting a baby to bed.
A few people booed. Many more stood up abruptly and fled for the exits. Rather than the slow trudge of the defeated, this was a sprint. The few who hadn’t had the sense to bolt immediately were now forced to stay until the end, knowing they were either stuck in here or stuck out there in traffic.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say we were relaxed …” Gibbons said of the encounter, allowing the cheeky thought to hang there for a moment before continuing on.
In the end, it was a difficult sort of game to use as a series barometer.
Texas did not put a single runner in scoring position until the ninth. Hamels matched his season-high for runs allowed. Josh Donaldson – who everyone now acknowledges is playing with a significant hip injury – was 4-for-4 with a walk. It’s hard to see any of those things repeating.
But for a day at least, Globe Life Park was a woodshed rather than a stadium.
Whatever brawls were promised, this was simply a beating. One more like this, and this thing is already over.Report Typo/Error
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