All it took was one swing by Edwin Encarnacion and the rematch was set.
Now, all the emotion, all the redemption, all the retaliation, all the revenge, it all starts Thursday.
There is no love lost between these two teams. It started last October when the Rangers gifted the Blue Jays the Division Series. And then Jose Bautista bat flip set off an international feud.
Then on a Sunday afternoon in mid-May, Matt Bush, in just his second major league game, accidentally hit Jose Bautista in the last at-bat in the series. The next batter grounded out, and Jose Bautista made the foolish decision to try to take out Odor, twice. Once with a bad slide. Once with an errant punch.
Next thing you know, Bautista is the poster boy for loudmouth jerks getting their comeuppance.
Now Texas faces a first-round rematch with Toronto. Where every inside pitch will elicit a grievance. Where every hit batter will be a declaration of war. Where every home run will be a huge flip of the middle finger. Where every play will be elevated and magnified. Where the demons of 2015 will not be exorcised until the Rangers win the series.
Texas goes into this series with a much better rotation than last year—Hamels, Darvish, Lewis, Perez versus Hamels, Gallardo, Holland, Perez . A much better starting nine—Gomez, Desmond, Choo, Beltre, Andrus, Odor, Moreland, Lucroy, Beltran vs Hamilton, DeShields, Choo, Beltre, Andrus, Odor, Moreland, Chirinos, Fielder. And a much better bullpen.
Let’s hope that’s enough.
By the way, Matt Bush pitched 61.2 innings this season. He threw 941 pitches. He hit one batter. Accidentally.
Game time: 7:09