The last time the Royals and Blue Jays met in the playoffs, Marty McFly had only gone to the past and hadn’t yet discovered the Cubs would win the 2015 World Series. The year was 1985, and Kansas City came back from a 3-1 series deficit for a seven-game ALCS win (the last two games were at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium). Plenty has changed since then, but these two teams again are on a collision course. And given their momentum, passion and star power, this series will not disappoint. In fact, here are 10 reasons it will be a classic.
Epic ALCS: The never-say-die comebacks
The Royals’ obituary was frantically being written after the Houston Astros took a 6-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 4 of the ALCS. And then it was frantically being torn apart. Kansas City rallied for a 9-6 win in that game and then erased a 2-0 deficit in the decisive Game 5. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays dropped the opening two games of their ALDS at home to the Texas Rangers and trailed after a gut-wrenching seventh inning in their do-or-die Game 5. Yet they overcame. Neither team is ever out of it, and no lead is safe.
Epic ALCS: The tumultuous recent history
Tempers flared and benches cleared when these two teams met for four games in late July/early August at Rogers Centre. There was chin music, there were hit batsmen and there were ejections. In the series finale, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was hit and seemed to be a target again later in the game, much to his chagrin. And right-hander Edinson Volquez, who hit Donaldson once, was hardly apologetic. 'He was crying like a baby,' Volquez said of Donaldson afterward. Well, Volquez starts Game 1 of the ALCS at Rogers Centre.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Epic ALCS: Josh Donaldson's chance at redemption
In addition to the skirmish earlier this season, Josh Donaldson has another great reason to want some revenge on the Royals. As a member of the Oakland A’s last season, he watched the Royals erase a 7-3 deficit in the seventh inning and rally for a 9-8 win in 12 innings against his A’s in the AL Wild Card Game. The game-winning hit by Salvador Perez was just out of Donaldson’s reach down the third-base line. He might never admit it, but Donaldson likely has been fantasizing about getting another shot at KC in the postseason.
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
Epic ALCS: The lights-out defense
Kevin Pillar is a human highlight reel in center field for the Jays, and Alex Gordon has won the past four Gold Gloves in left field for the Royals. And there is stellar defense all over the outfield and infield for each division champion. And even the reserves can flash the leather – Royals backup outfielder Paulo Orlando crashed into the outfield wall to catch the final out of the ALDS clincher on Wednesday night. Neither team is going to give away outs or runs.
Epic ALCS: The passion
Neither team is afraid to show emotion, as you might have guessed from watching Jose Bautista’s insane bat flip in Game 5 of the ALDS – or just about anything else that happened in that ridiculous seventh inning. But the Royals have celebrated a time or two themselves, as this image of Kendrys Morales circling the bases like a 747 after his mammoth homer to put away Game 5 against the Astros can attest.
Epic ALCS: The ace acquisitions
David Price was lights-out during the regular season after his arrival from the Tigers, but his postseason woes continued in the ALDS (eight earned runs in 10 innings). Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto looked nothing like the No. 1 starter the Royals believed they were getting from the Reds during the regular season. And then he turned in an absolute gem in Game 5 of the ALDS. Both starters are motivated to produce for their new teams, and it doesn’t hurt that 28 other teams will be watching as they finalize their available free-agent budgets.
Epic ALCS: The ridiculously loud crowds
Three years ago, you might have been able to hear a pin drop in Rogers Centre or Kauffman Stadium during a game. Not any longer. After the Royals broke their 29-year playoff drought in 2014, their fans finally had something to cheer about. Ditto for the Blue Jays faithful, who are experiencing postseason baseball for the first time since 1993. Of course, no one wants a replay of the ugly incident in Toronto in Game 5 of the ALDS, but expect the crowds in each park to be raucous.
Epic ALCS: The sluggers
Everyone still loves offense, and each team can supply it. The Blue Jays led the majors with 891 runs and 232 homers, and had three players (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson) finish with at least 39 homers and 111 RBI during the regular season. The Royals can't mash like that, but they did hit 44 more homers than in 2014 -- with six regulars finishing with double-digit homer totals. Plus, KC can generate runs with small ball (the Royals' 104 stolen bases were fifth in the majors).
Epic ALCS: The fiery young aces
Speaking of emotion and passion, the Royals' Yordano Ventura and Blue Jays' Marcus Stoman ooze it. Ventura struggled earlier this season but improved so much in the final couple of months that he started Game 1 of the ALDS. And Stroman, believed to be lost for the season after tearing his ACL in March, not only pitched his way into the postseason rotation, but he also started the must-win Game 5 of the ALDS. Not bad for a pair of 24-year-olds.
Epic ALCS: The unexpected closers
Wade Davis began the season in a setup role for Greg Holland but picked up a few saves along the way before taking over the ninth-inning duties in August. With Holland now recovering from Tommy John surgery, Davis has been untouchable, striking out five in his three outings in the ALDS. Roberto Osuna was the ninth-inning option that finally clicked for Toronto, which had eight relievers record a save this season. Osuna, a rookie, has dominated with 5 2/3 scoreless innings this postseason. Worth noting: Both Davis and Osuna were on the mound when their teams clinched ALCS berths Wednesday.