TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays are on to the American League Championship Series after taking the ALDS with a wild 6-3 Game 5 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
Here are five Blue Jays players who made an impact in the Division Series:
Toronto’s right-fielder, who’s been with the organization since 2008, is relishing his first post-season experience — and contributing in a big way. The 32-year-old Bautista hit the series-winning three-run homer in Game 5, giving Toronto a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh after a controversial run had pulled Texas ahead in the top half of the frame.
Bautista also hit an RBI double in the third inning Wednesday to account for four of Toronto’s six runs. He’s batting .273 with two home runs through five post-season games.
Pillar led the team with a .412 batting average through the first four games of the series and had a third-best OPS of 1.118. He had three hits in Game 4 — an 8-4 Toronto win that forced the deciding fifth game — becoming the first Blue Jay to record three or more hits in one post-season game since Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar did it in 1993. The Blue Jays centre-fielder made a name for himself this season as a formidable defender, and that continued into the post-season. Pillar made a spectacular snag in the fourth inning of Game 5, running from deep to shallow centre, diving forward and getting his glove under a ball before it hit the turf to rob Josh Hamilton of a base hit.
The Blue Jays rookie closer has continued his impressive first season into the playoffs. In four appearances in the five-game ALDS, Osuna worked 5 2/3 innings, giving up zero runs on zero hits. He came into Game 5 with a three-run lead and five outs to get and struck out four batters en route to his first post-season save.
With Toronto trailing the best-of-five series 2-0, Osuna came up big in Game 3, getting the final three outs — Prince Fielder, Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus — in the Blue Jays’ 5-1 win. The next day he again worked a perfect ninth to help Toronto even the series.
Stroman’s season began in agony, tearing his ACL during a spring training fielding drill, but from that moment on he vowed to return to the mound in time for the 2015 post-season. Not only has Stroman lived up to his promise, he’s exceeding just about everyone’s expectations. Stroman started the decisive fifth game of the ALDS, giving up two runs on six hits, a walk and four strikeouts. He also pitched the second game of the series, a 6-4 extra-innings loss, where he went seven strong innings, fanning five and allowing four runs (three earned).
Donaldson tied for third place on the franchise post-season home run leaderboard with two (Jose Bautista, Pat Border, Kelly Gruber, John Olerud, Devon White and Dave Winfield are the others), and he drove in three runs over the first four games of the ALDS. Donaldson’s first homer of the post-season came in the first inning of Game 2 in Toronto, and cut the Blue Jays’ deficit to 2-1 in an eventual 6-4 loss in extras. His second gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead in the first inning of Game 4 in Texas, which Toronto won 8-4. Donaldson had an RBI and a run scored in Game 5, too.
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press