KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have established a reputation for dramatic postseason 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 as well.
After going on a second-half run to make the playoffs, then rallying from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Texas in a best-of-five matchup, the Blue Jays will try to beat the Royals in another win-or-else situation in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series toight.
Toronto forced the series back to Kansas City with a 7-1 rout on Wednesday, closing to 3-2.
“You look at all the elimination games, our offense has really come to life,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Thursday. “We’ve said all along that’s the key to our team, scoring runs. You hate to make a habit of it, but maybe we can pull it off again.”
David Price will take the mound for the Blue Jays after his collapse in Game 2, when he tossed six shutout innings and then surrendered five runs in the seventh.
Yordano Ventura will oppose him for Kansas City. He was only marginally better, 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.”
The Blue Jays 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 Blue 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,” Blue Jays outfielder Chris Colabello said. “We were 7 1/2 games (back) at the deadlines. ... We had to claw back from that.
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.”
They may have to do just that. While the Blue Jays have won four straight elimination games, the Royals are 6-2 in their last eight postseason 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 Blue 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. “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 Blue Jays, will it be the Price who was dominant for six innings earlier this series, recording 18 straight outs at one point? Or the rattled former Cy Young Award winner who, when an easy popup fell for a single, proceeded to allow five runs in defeat, falling to 0-7 in seven career playoff starts?
“I know what I’m capable of doing and I think everybody in this room knows what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I just kind of want to do it too bad. 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 tomorrow.”
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 postseason, and who was far from perfect in his first try against Toronto?
“I’m just happy to be able to bring the series back home to Kansas City,” he said, “and I’ll be ready tomorrow to pitch and perform for my club.”