In Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, Edinson Volquez held on despite control problems to throw six innings of shutout ball. In Game 5 on Wednesday, the Toronto Blue Jays finally opened the floodgates.
Troy Tulowitzki drove in three runs, Chris Colabello hit a home run and Marco Estrada threw a nearly flawless 7.2 innings as the Blue Jays staved off elimination with a 7-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. The series now heads back to Kansas City, Missouri, with the Royals ahead 3-2.
ESPN Stats & Info provided a look at the Blue Jays' ability to stay alive this postseason:
Tulowitzki hit a three-run double as part of a four-run sixth inning that blew up a game that had been a pitchers' duel up to that point. Volquez walked three batters and hit a fourth against the first four batters of the inning before being pulled for Kelvin Herrera, who struck out Colabello before Tulowitzki drove in all three baserunners with a shot to center.
It's been an up-and-down series for the Blue Jays shortstop, who had a dust-up with umpire John Hirschbeck after being tossed in Game 3. He's played an integral part in both of Toronto's wins in the ALCS, driving in six runs (seven total in the series), and has at least one hit in four of the five games.
This seems about right, as Grantland's Sean McIndoe joked:
The Blue Jays had only eight hits in scoring their seven runs, largely taking advantage of Volquez's wild tendencies. The Kansas City starter walked four batters for the second straight start and seemed to totally lose his composure in the sixth.
That follows a good-on-paper Game 1 where Volquez walked four and needed 111 pitches to get through six innings. Of course, that involved Toronto going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position—something it did not do Wednesday afternoon.
On the other side, it was night-and-day for Estrada from Game 1 to Game 5. He made it through only 5.1 innings while playing in Kansas City, allowing six hits and three runs; it took a well-timed double play in the sixth inning of Game 1 for it not to be blown open.
Less than a week later, Estrada turned in one of his best starts of the season. The Royals managed just one hit over the first seven innings, and Estrada finished the game allowing one earned run on three hits over 7.2 innings of work. Kansas City's lone run came on a Salvador Perez solo home run, as the team managed just four hits overall.
"The first time around, I didn't really have four-seam location," Estrada said before the game, per Larry Millson of the Sports Xchange (via UPI.com). "I didn't have the down-and-away [pitch] as much as I wanted to. And those were the pitches that really got hit. So for me, the most important thing is to be able to establish the fastball location and then work off that."
Estrada's command was on point throughout, as he walked only one batter and threw 72 of his 108 pitches for strikes. Tim Harper of the Toronto Star complimented Estrada's outing:
Also coming through were Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Kevin Pillar, who each drove in a run. Bautista remains silent from a power perspective—he's slugging just .333 for the series—but he had a single and a double to go along with a walk.
It took a while for Bautista to get heated up in the American League Division Series as well. When he did, the result was one of the best moments in recent Toronto sports history. If recent history is any indication, a bat flip might be in store for Game 6.
Looking forward, the Blue Jays have every reason to feel confident.
They traded for David Price—who will get the ball Friday night—for this exact reason. Price has been largely terrible this October, posting a 7.02 ERA in his three appearances while taking the loss in both of his starts. In fact, Price has never won a postseason game where he's been the starting pitcher—a jarring statistic given his stature among the sport's best pitchers.
Nevertheless, this is an outing Price should win. Yordano Ventura is scheduled to take the bump for Kansas City, and he's long been the rotation's most volatile piece. Comparing the resumes of the two starters, it looks like we should be heading for a Game 7.
Then again, you probably could have said the same before Wednesday.
It's a great game. The fans gave me all the energy I needed, all the adrenaline I needed. I was shaking on the mound, I had so much adrenaline going. I wasn't nervous. I just had a lot of adrenaline going, and it helped me pitch today. I located early on, and that's really been my biggest issue, is not locating early on. Today I had everything going, had a little bump at the end, but we got it done.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons spoke about Estrada, per the Canadian Press (via SportsNet): "He's a guy that's carried us in a lot of ways. He's a master of what he does. It doesn't always look pretty but he's mastered it."
Tulowitzki talked about his return to form after a rough start to the postseason: "It's a tough game, sometimes you go through rough patches, sometimes you swing the bat well. Just lately I've been putting better swings."
The Jays shortstop also spoke on turning the series around, per the Associated Press (via the New York Times): "It's the start that we needed. They're a great team over there. We know that. But this guy kept them off balance and allowed the offense to settle in and get some runs."
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