The Rangers clubbed two homers off the Blue Jays en route to a 4-1 victory in the opener of their three-game set at Rogers Centre on Monday, as Yu Darvish fanned nine and stole the spotlight in his first start north of the border. Texas entered the game with the second-most homers in baseball, while Blue Jays pitchers had surrendered the most.
Toronto will turn to Drew Hutchison, who will be making his third Major League start Tuesday, in a bid to even up the series. Blue Jays manager John Farrell is confident his rookie can step up to the challenge like Kyle Drabek did Monday, when the right-hander struck out a career-high eight batters.
"The fact that we've been able to make positive strides and advance with our rotation is, I think, a foundation every team is trying to construct," Farrell said. "Any team that plays successfully over a period of time, you have to point to their rotation as being a main reason for it."
Texas would certainly attest to that, as the club will hand the ball to Neftali Feliz, who will be making just his fourth Major League start after saving 32 games for the Rangers in 2011.
Feliz, who is 1-1 on the season, hasn't started since April 21 as the Rangers monitor his innings and give him extra rest between starts. He did pitch one inning of relief in a series against the Yankees last week, and Rangers manager Ron Washington has found ways to keep him ready for his start Tuesday.
"He's been long-tossing, bullpens," Washington said before Monday's game at Rogers Centre. "He got that one inning in. He's fine. I don't think the rest is going to make him erratic in any sense."
With the win Monday, Texas has continued an impressive streak of not losing back-to-back regular-season games since dropping three straight against the Red Sox from Aug. 23-25 last season.
Rangers: Hamilton sits out first game of series
Josh Hamilton sat out the first of three games in Toronto as he recovers from back spasms, but felt he could have played Monday. Washington chose to rest his star outfielder, who left Sunday's game against Tampa Bay with what appears to be a muscular problem.
The Rogers Centre surface is an artificial turf, but that had no bearing in keeping Hamilton out.
"We're not going to let the turf stop us from putting our best team out there unless it's detrimental," Washington said. "He's just got some stiffness and we have to wait until he can do what he has to do comfortably."
Entering Monday's game, Hamilton led all American League players with nine homers and 25 RBIs.
Ian Kinsler set a franchise record for runs scored in the month of April by scoring his 24th run in Monday's win over Toronto.
Kinsler leads all American League second basemen in runs scored, home runs and OPS and has reached base safely in every game except one since Opening Day.
Following Monday's game, Washington said that Adrian Beltre may sit out Tuesday's contest because the artificial turf at Rogers Centre is tough on him.
It didn't seem to bother him Monday, as the slugger went 3-for-5 with a run scored and a pair of doubles. Beltre, who has three multi-hit games in his last five, is batting .321 on the season.
Blue Jays: Encarnacion on fire
Edwin Encarnacion hit a home run for the fourth consecutive game, taking Darvish deep in the fourth inning.
The designated hitter leads the Blue Jays in home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and OPS. Before striking out in the ninth inning of Monday's loss, Encarnacion had reached base safely in nine consecutive plate appearances.
Farrell has credited a new two-handed swing at the plate for the success his slugger is having in April.
"Last year we saw a sign that once contact was made, there was a release with the top hand and I think that can cause a hitter for his hands to get further away from his body," Farrell said. "This is a much more compact and repeatable swing."
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has been mired in a slump all season long and dropped his average to .181 after going 0-for-4 Monday. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos isn't concerned with his All-Star outfielder despite the significant drop in production.
"I wouldn't say I'm worried because the bat speed is still unbelievable," Anthopoulos said. "It's just timing, mechanics, he's hitting underneath balls, just off, but he's hitting some balls hard too. The guy is so good and you know it's just the way the game is.
"You have a lot of good players, you look at what [Derek] Jeter went through last year, how well he's doing this year. I remember Paul Konerko years ago through the All-Star break didn't do so well, it happens with a lot of great players. If Jose's skills were eroding, that's when you have a concern, but they're not. He's in great shape, the bat speed is unbelievable."
Bautista has just three homers after leading the Majors Leagues in home runs in each of the past two seasons. He did enter Monday's game tied for the third-most walks in the American League with 16.