Royals-Blue Jays Preview
Doing what the Toronto Blue Jays do best has the Kansas City Royals one win away from a repeat World Series trip.
Coming off another prolific scoring display, the Royals can clinch a second consecutive pennant Wednesday afternoon in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series in Toronto.
The Blue Jays earned their first postseason trip since 1993 on the strength of an offense that led the majors in home runs and runs scored, but it’s Kansas City that’s been swinging the hot bats in this series. After recording 15 hits for a second straight day in Tuesday’s 14-2 victory, the Royals have built a 3-1 lead by hitting .331 with 33 runs.
Kansas City is batting .390 in splitting Games 3 and 4 at Rogers Centre and has outhomered the Blue Jays 4-3 after Ben Zobrist and Alex Rios both connected off R.A. Dickey on Tuesday.
”Our park, our style of play is a little different," first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "We like to use our legs and be athletic, but when we come to some of these parks where the fences aren’t as deep we’ve got some guys that can put the ball in the seats.”
Zobrist is hitting .389 with seven runs and four extra-base hits for the series batting out of the No. 2 spot behind Alcides Escobar, who’s 9 for 15 with six runs and five RBIs while becoming the first in MLB history to lead off the first four games of a postseason series with a hit.
Escobar singled in front of Zobrist’s homer that ignited the first four-run opening inning in ALCS history and helped put Kansas City on the verge of becoming the first repeat AL champion since Texas in 2010 and ’11.
"They’ve been table-setters. They’ve been run producers," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It’s been fun to watch them go to work every day."
Toronto’s dangerous lineup, meanwhile, has produced just five runs in the three losses to put the AL East champions at a two-game deficit for the third time this postseason. The Blue Jays rallied to win the best-of-five ALDS against Texas despite losing the first two at home.
”It’s a do-or-die game for us,” Toronto manager John Gibbons. ”But they do it all year. I think these guys will let this one go and they’ll show up to play (Wednesday). I know these guys will be ready.”
The Blue Jays still face an uphill climb, having to play two straight in Kansas City if they can solve Game 1 starter Edinson Volquez and a Royals’ team that’s 4-1 when having a chance to eliminate the opposition over the past two postseasons. The lone loss came to San Francisco in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.
Volquez (1-1, 2.31 ERA) entered Friday’s opener with an 8.76 ERA while losing his three previous postseason starts, but scattered two singles and four walks over six innings of the Royals’ 5-0 win.
The veteran right-hander has lost both of his two career starts at Rogers Centre, allowing two runs over six innings of a 5-2 defeat there on Aug. 2, but has held a number of Toronto regulars in check. Including the postseason, Ben Revere is 0 for 11 against Volquez, Jose Bautista is 3 for 18 and Troy Tulowitzki is 3 for 17.
Gibbons will call on Marco Estrada (1-1, 3.09) to save Toronto’s season, a feat the right-hander did accomplish by yielding one run through 6 1-3 innings of a 5-1 Game 3 win at Texas in the ALDS.
Estrada wasn’t as effective when opposing Volquez in Game 1, surrendering a solo homer to Salvador Perez and three runs total over 5 1-3 innings.
Gibbons is counting on a longer outing Wednesday after Dickey lasted just 1 2-3 innings while permitting five runs. The Blue Jays own an 8.47 ERA during a series in which they’ve yet to receive a quality start and were forced to use infielder Cliff Pennington to get the final out of Game 4.
Hosmer is 4 for 8 against Estrada including the postseason and Escobar is 4 for 10. Lorenzo Cain, who owns a club-record 13-game postseason hitting streak, is 3 for 9 in the matchup.