There have been several times this year when rookie Rangers manager Jeff Banister has caused us all to scratch our heads a bit, and maybe even long for the days of old with Ron Washington at the helm.
But as the season wore on, those thoughts were gradually drifting away. On Thursday in his postseason managerial debut, Banister slammed the door shut on any such thoughts when he managed pretty much the perfect game and stole Game 1 in Toronto against the World Series favorites, the offensive juggernaut of the Blue Jays.
It all started with his decision to start Yovani Gallardo in Game 1 with Cole Hamels not being available until Game 2. Some folks were probably clamoring for Gallardo to not even be on the roster, but Banister looked at his history against the Blue Jays (13 2/3 scoreless innings, no extra-base hits entering Thursday's game) and the fact he had a well rested bullpen, which he happens to trust a whole lot.
It worked, as Gallardo got through five innings 11 pitches shy of his cutoff of 90 pitches before Banister turned the game over to his lockdown bullpen.
Keone Kela started things off in the sixth by allowing a no-doubt home run to Jose Bautista, but it didn't affect him. Kela was masterful after that, getting three quick outs. Then, Banister stuck with the hot hand of Jake Diekman for not only the seventh inning, but also the entire eighth — six batters, six outs, 16 pitches.
Here comes the key decision: Banister went with groundball machine Sam Dyson for the ninth inning to close out the game instead of his closer, Shawn Tolleson, who has been hit hard lately. Dyson allowed one hit, but got out of the inning pretty easily against the beef of Toronto's order.
All in all, it was near perfection from Banister, and it was a big growing moment for the rookie skipper heading into a pretty great chance to take a 2-0 series lead with his ace on the hill.