Given the arduous task of digging out of a 2-0 hole in an American League Division Series, the Toronto Blue Jays turned to former Glendale Community College standout Marco Estrada on Sunday to stave off elimination.
Estrada passed the test, as the starting pitcher allowed one run on five hits to help visiting Toronto record a 5-1 victory against the Texas Rangers.
Estrada won a career-high 13 games during the regular season and played a big role in helping Toronto win the East Division for the first time since 1993. On Sunday, he struck out four and walked none in 6 1/3 innings.
"You know, we're going to attack," Estrada, 32, told FoxSports1 after the game. "They actually weren't very aggressive early on and we were trying to get ahead early on. I missed a few first-pitch strikes, but you know I'd come back with another strike and it all worked out.
"I was just trying to keep them off-balance. Threw a lot of good change-ups today and it just mixed it up pretty well today. I had a really good mentality going into this game. I didn't think about it as a postseason start to be honest with you. I kind of told of myself, 'hey, you've been doing this all year. Just keep the same mentality out there.' It's obviously a bigger stage and it meant a little more just because we're down by two, but I didn't want to think about it that way. You want to win every game you go out there, so have the same mentality out there. That's basically how I took it today."
Game four of the best-of-five series will be played Monday in Texas at 1:07 p.m. (PDT). A winner-take-all contest would be played Wednesday In Toronto, where Texas won the first two games.
"He was unbelievable," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's been doing that all year and it doesn't surprise me that he stepped it up.
"It's a job well done. He spotted his fast ball and used his curve real well. [Toronto catcher Dioner] Navarro has a great feel for him."
Estrada retired the first eight batters he faced before giving up a ground-rule double to Hanser Alberto in the third. Estrada, a former All-Western State Conference selection, also retired the side in order in the second and fourth innings.
Estrada made 89 pitches, including 57 for strikes.
Gibbons removed Estrada with one out and runners on second and third with one out. Toronto reliever Aaron Loup got a run-scoring ground out for the second out before Mark Lowe recorded the final out on a strike out.
Texas Manager Jeff Banister said Estrada kept the Rangers off balance.
"He had command of what he wanted to do," said Banister, whose team won the West Division crown. "He elevated his fast ball when he needed to and mixed in his change up."
Estrada finished the regular season with a 13-8 record and a 3.13 earned-run average, which was fifth-best in the American League. He totaled 131 strikeouts and walked 55 in 181 innings.
Estrada posted a batting average against of .203, tops in the American League and fourth-best in all of baseball behind the Chicago Cubs' Jake Arrieta (.185) and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Zack Greinke (.187) and Clayton Kershaw (.194).
Toronto scored single runs in the third and fourth innings before Troy Tulowitzk hit a three-run home run to left field to make it 5-0.