TORONTO (AP) — Fresh off being named the American League’s top rookie in April, Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara started making his case for a repeat victory in May.
Mazara hit a tiebreaking home run in the top of the eighth, then threw out the potential tying run at home plate in the bottom half of the inning, helping Texas beat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 on Monday night for their fifth win in six games.
"Mazara just continues to impress all of us," manager Jeff Banister said.
Tony Barnette (1-1) worked one inning for his first major league win and Shawn Tolleson finished for his ninth save as the Rangers snapped a four-game road losing streak and handed the Blue Jays their fourth consecutive home loss. It’s Toronto’s longest slump at Rogers Centre since a four-game skid from April 23-26, 2014.
The Blue Jays are an AL-worst 2-7 in one-run games.
"In these close games we’re just not executing good enough to win," manager John Gibbons said.
Named the AL’s top rookie in the month of April earlier Monday after batting .333 with two homers and seven RBIs in 17 games, Mazara broke a 1-1 tie with a shot to center off Gavin Floyd (0-2).
"I put a pretty good swing on a changeup," Mazara said. "I was looking for something up in the zone and that’s what he gave me."
Brett Nicholas also homered as the Rangers took the opener of a four-game series between ALDS opponents from 2015.
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, whose dramatic home run and exaggerated bat flip marked Toronto’s Game 5 victory over Texas in last year’s postseason, was held in check this time. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
Bautista faced Sam Dyson, who surrendered that pivotal homer last October, with runners at first and second and nobody out in the eighth. This time, Dyson won the battle by getting Bautista to line out.
"That’s what you’re here for," Dyson said. "You’re here to compete."
Edwin Encarnacion followed with a walk, loading the bases for Troy Tulowitzki, who flied out to right. Saunders tagged from third but was thrown out by Mazara, with the call upheld following a Toronto challenge.
"I’ve seen him do it before," Dyson said of Mazara’s throw. "He’s deadly when he has the ball in his hand."
Replay was kinder to Toronto in the seventh, when Dickey left after the Rangers loaded the bases with two singles and a walk. Floyd came on to face Rougned Odor, who flied out to center. Delino DeShields tried to advance from first to second on the play but was thrown out by Kevin Pillar. Home plate umpire Cory Blaser initially ruled that Mitch Moreland had scored before DeShields was retired but the Blue Jays challenged and the call was overturned, keeping it tied 1-all.
"Any time you take a run off the board, it hurts," Banister said.
The replay review between the top and bottom of the seventh pre-empted the seventh inning stretch. The playing of `OK Blue Jays’ and `Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ was pushed back until after the top of the eighth.
The Rangers did not commit an error for the ninth consecutive game, and turned at least double play for the ninth straight game, extending a season-high streak. Texas finished with two double plays, giving them an ML-best 39.
Rangers: OF Shin-Soo Choo (right calf) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the DL. … RHP Yu Darvish (elbow surgery) will make his second rehab start Friday. Darvish will throw three innings or 45 pitches for Triple-A Round Rock. … OF Josh Hamilton (left knee) will be sidelined until Friday, resetting the 20-day clock on his rehab assignment at Double-A Frisco. Hamilton was shut down after suffering a setback Saturday.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (1-2, 4.20) will make his third road start of the season. He’s 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his previous two outings away from home.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (1-2, 2.92) is winless in three starts. He took the loss in his lone start against Texas last season, allowing one run in six innings.