KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Kansas City Royals have established a reputation for dramatic post-season comebacks the past couple of years, beginning with last season’s wild-card victory over Oakland.
Turns out, the Toronto Blue Jays have some never-say-quit spirit, too.
After going on a second-half run to make the playoffs, then rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat Texas in a best-of-five matchup, the Jays will try to beat the Royals in another win-or-else situation in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series tonight.
Toronto forced the series back to Kansas City with a 7-1 rout on Wednesday, closing to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
“You look at all the elimination games, our offence has really come to life,” Jays’ manager John Gibbons noted yesterday.
“We’ve said all along that’s the key to our team, scoring runs,” he remarked.
“You hate to make a habit of it but maybe we can pull it off again.”
David Price will take the mound for the Jays after his collapse in the series-opener, when he tossed six shutout innings and then surrendered five runs in the seventh.
Yordano Ventura will oppose him for Kansas City.
He only was marginally better in the opener, allowing three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings before watching the comeback win from the dugout.
“I’m very fortunate and happy that this game has landed on my turn, here in Kansas City, and with the opportunity to take this club to the World Series,” Ventura said through catching coach Pedro Grifol, acting as a translator.
“I’ll be ready for this game.”
ThJays promise they will be, too.
Toronto lost the first two games against the Rangers at home, then won three-straight with its season hanging in the balance.
The first two were at Texas and the last at Rogers Centre, but none of the victories was even close—all by at least three runs.
The Jays lost the first two games in Kansas City, too. But in Game 3 in Toronto, the hosts overcame a 1-0 deficit and rolled to an 11-8 victory.
“We’ve been through a bunch of hurdles all year,” said Jays’ infielder Chris Colabello.
“We were 7.5 games [back] at the [trade] deadlines . . . we had to claw back from that,” he noted. “We were down two games back in the division series and we clawed back from that.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re going to leave everything we have out there,” he vowed.
They may have to do just that. While the Jays have won four-straight elimination games, the Royals are 6-2 in their last eight post-season games at Kauffman Stadium.
Make no mistake, either: The ballpark matters in this series.
While the homer-happy Blue Jays were built with the small dimensions of Rogers Centre in mind, the speedy, defensive-minded Royals were built for their home park.
Not surprisingly, the Jays failed to homer in the first two games of the ALCS in Kansas City but hit four long balls in Toronto, including three in Game 3.
“Nothing but positivity. We’ve got a 3-2 lead and we’re heading back to Kansas City,” Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer said before arriving home.
“That’s where we play our best baseball so everyone is still feeling pretty good about the series.”
The big question in Game 6 is which starting pitchers will show up.
For the Jays, will it be the Price who was dominant for six innings in Game 1, recording 18-straight outs at one point?
Or the rattled former Cy Young Award winner who, when an easy pop-up fell for a single, proceeded to allow five runs and fall to 0-7 in seven playoff starts?
“I know what I’m capable of doing and I think everybody in this room knows what I’m capable of doing,” Price said.
“I think I just kind of want to do it too bad,” he reasoned.
“And it’s long overdue for me to get a win as a starter in the playoffs, and I’ll be ready to change that story [Friday].”
For the Royals, will it be the Ventura who tossed seven innings of three-hit ball in the must-win Game 6 of last year’s World Series?
Or the shaky 24-year-old who has a 6.57 ERA in the post-season, and who was far from perfect in the series opener?
“I’m just happy to be able to bring the series back home to Kansas City,” Ventura said.
“And I’ll be ready [Friday] to pitch and perform for my club.”