Blue Jays feeling the effects of ‘epic’ fan support going into playoffs

First baseman Chris Colabello experiences Blue Jays fever every time he looks at his phone or steps out his door. “It’s pretty epic,” he said. Colabello, a platoon player who readily admits he’s nowhere near the top of the Jays’ star pecking order, says just getting a cup of coffee is an adventure these days.

TORONTO — First baseman Chris Colabello experiences Blue Jays fever every time he looks at his phone or steps out his door.

“It’s pretty epic,” he said.

Colabello, a platoon player who readily admits he’s nowhere near the top of the Jays’ star pecking order, says just getting a cup of coffee is an adventure these days.

“That’s a testament to how much this city loves their team and appreciates what we’ve done for them,” he said. “And we hope to continue it for them.”

“It’s a blessing,” added left-fielder Ben Revere.

Toronto’s wild ride this season will go up a gear Thursday when the Blue Jays host the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of their American League Division Series. It’s Toronto’s first visit to the post-season since winning a second straight World Series in 1993 and interest is booming.

Toronto ace David Price will face Texas’ Yovani Gallardo in the series opener while Marcus Stroman, adding a new chapter to his remarkable comeback from spring training knee surgery, takes on Rangers marquee man Cole Hamels in Game 2 Friday.

The best-of-five series will then descend on Texas for the next two games, if necessary, with Game 5 in Toronto if needed.

A relaxed bunch of Jays met the media Tuesday before working out at the Rogers Centre to the diverse sounds of Miguel, Beck, Fetty Wap, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, the Zac Brown Band and Hardwell.

Promotions for Thursday’s game flashed on the giant scoreboard as the players held batting practice.

Earlier, manager John Gibbons leaned back in his chair as he chatted with reporters in his office.

“I feel good,” he said. “Nice and relaxed. I feel good about the way the year’s gone. And you know what I think we’ve got a real shot to advance in this thing.

“You never know (in) the playoffs. Everybody will tell you that … But I feel confident in the group. I know they feel confident. We’ve just got to go out and play it.”

The 53-year-old Gibbons, in his second go-round as Toronto manager, summed up the Jays’ formula for success.

“We score a lot of runs. That’s really what this team is,” he said. “But we started winning more when we started playing better defence — a couple of changes — and the bullpen improved.”

And he pointed to Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Price and Stroman as the kind of players who thrive on the big stage.

Every Jay is in the spotlight these days, with fans across the country following the team.

Colabello, who has 24,100 Twitter followers, estimates 20,000 of them came after joining Toronto this season.

Gibbons says he too feels the buzz.

“I get recognized probably a little bit more — maybe in a better way,” he said with a smile. “You can just feel the excitement, no doubt about that.”

His phone isn’t lighting up, however.

“My buddies might call. (It’s a) secure number,” he added with a grin.

Toronto (93-69) went 4-2 against Texas (88-74) this season. Toronto and Texas were 1-2 in scoring runs in the second half of the season when Toronto went 48-23 and Texas 46-28.

Both managers have only confirmed their starters for the first two games of the series. Gibbons said one of R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada will pitch Game 3. Stroman used social media to announce his Game 2 start.

“Tore my ACL, finished my degree from @DukeU, rehabbed my knee in 5 months, and now pitching in Game 2 of the .ALDS. Crazy excited!” he tweeted Tuesday.

Hamels threw a complete game Sunday in Texas’ regular-season finale, a 9-2 win over the Angels that clinched the AL West title.

The Rangers have won their past 10 games started by Hamels, who is 7-1 in 12 starts since being acquired from Philadelphia in late July.

The two Texas pitchers have fared differently against the Jays in a limited number of meetings

Gallardo (13-11, 3.42 ERA) won both of his starts this season against Toronto, pitching 13 2/3 scoreless innings. Toronto managed just six hits while batting 136 against him. Gallardo is 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA all-time against the Jays.

Hamels is 0-2 with a career 6.97 ERA in four starts against the Jays. On the plus side, his post-season ERA is 3.09 against all teams.

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