I’m still coming to terms with how the game ended last night. I guess the way the top of the first inning went down foreshadowed the bottom of the ninth. Ben Revere got us going immediately with a leadoff double to start the game but Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin couldn’t cash him and the Blue Jays would continue to struggle with runners in scoring position the whole night.
On the other side of things, David Price wasn’t sharp early, giving up solo home runs in the first and second but really wasn’t fooling anyone and was leaving the ball up in the strike zone. And then he flipped a switch, changed his approach (as the Fox broadcasters pointed out ad nauseum) and became untouchable.
This game hinged on controversy and luck. The Mike Moustakas home run was ruled a dinger but was probably interfered with but was not overturned by the call to the New York office. With Jose Bautista’s fourth-inning home run off Yordano Ventura, there’s a possibility that the game would be tied at that point if the Moustakas homer had been called a double.
The third KC run came from a bloop single that broke Mike Moustakas’s (again) bat. Price got a long fly out that Ben Revere made a highlight reel catch on and then Ryan Goins followed with another highlight defensive play to get out number two. On came Aaron Sanchez and Alex Rios, the first batter he faced and former Blue Jay, hit a solid base hit to left field which scored Moustakas.
The two-run lead was nullified by Jose Bautista’s heroics again. Bautista went deep with Ben Revere on first with an infield single, scoring two and tying the game at three. The Blue Jays were back in the game.
But the Royals weren’t done. With Roberto Osuna on to pitch the ninth in a tie game, he faltered, walking Lorenzo Cain who scored all the way from first on Eric Hosmer‘s single after Jose Bautista did a Herculean job to cut the ball off from the corner but threw to second, allowing Cain to make it home fairly easily, beating the relay from Troy Tulowitzki.
The top of the ninth inning made for high drama as Russell Martin led off with a single. Pinch runner Dalton Pompey stole second and third as Kevin Pillar walked, giving the Blue Jays runners on first and third with no one out.
Dioner Navarro struck out. But the controversy came when one of those called strikes clearly wasn’t a strike, forcing him to swing at a pitch out of the strike zone. Ben Revere struck out as well, also taking a called strike up and out of the zone that shouldn’t have been a strike, again, forcing him to expand his strike zone to avoid getting called out. Finally, Josh Donaldson, potentially the AL MVP, grounded out to third to end the game.
So why did the Blue Jays lose? In my mind it’s because they couldn’t take advantage of multiple opportunities with runners on base and in scoring position. They were 0/12 with RISP today and were 0/7 in Game 1 (the 5-0 loss), 3/16 in Game 2 (6-3 loss), 5/11 in the Game 3 win (11-8), 1-6 in Game 4’s loss (14-2) and only 2/6 in Game 5’s win.
The bottom line was nothing broke their way in this game that was a tight match up. In Game 5 against Texas, while one thing didn’t break their way in that historic seventh inning, everything came up Blue Jays in the bottom of the seventh, starting with the three consecutive errors involving Elvis Andrus.
In the ALCS, the Royals didn’t make the same mistakes and open the door for the Blue Jays to capitalize. They played clean and got better pitching for the most part, making the fierce Blue Jays offense look toothless with runners on base. Revere left four runners on, Donaldson left six, Tulowitzki left three. Sometimes that just the luck of where the ball ends up (like in Moustakas’s glove on an absolute bullet off of Donaldson’s bat) but other times, it’s ineffective situational hitting. Combined, Donaldson, Encarnacion, Colabello and Tulowitzki, the two, three, five and six batters in the line up, went 2/16 with a double and a walk. And with runners on, nothing happened, wasting Dalton Pompey’s running feats and Ben Revere’s lead-off double.
Price wasn’t bad. Sanchez made a couple of bad pitches, as did Osuna but really, this was a very winnable game, thanks to the stellar defense and Jose Bautista.
It’s been a heck of a ride in 2015 and hopefully Alex Anthopoulos is back to address some of the issues with the team (which I’ll discuss in my next post) and let’s make it even further in 2016.
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