For the Toronto Blue Jays, game five of the ALDS was the ultimate tipping point. After pushing towards their first playoff appearance in over two decades, a quick exit in the first round would have sparked an offseason of controversy. Instead, the Blue Jays have ignited a nation with one of the most electrifying ball games in recent memory, and snuffed out any ALDS storylines in the process.
The rioters had stormed the gates despite a win in game four, pitchforks in hand after manager John Gibbons decided to use American League Cy Young candidate David Price for an extended relief appearance. Gibbons declared Price unavailable for the fifth and deciding game of this series, something I didn’t quite believe at the time, but it turns out he spoke the truth.
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Starting Marcus Stroman in Wednesday’s game was a risk, regardless of his recent success. With just five starts under his belt since returning from an ACL tear that was supposed to end his season, Stroman’s resume paled in comparison to Price’s. If this had of gone south, it would have taken John Gibbons with it. Now, the Jays have an opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button and enter the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals with a staff that instills confidence.
While bullpen questions remain, the starting rotation of Price, Stroman, R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada remains strong. The Blue Jays will surge forward without any hesitation, and in a seven game series, they’ll need some repeat performances from their top arms. Don’t be shocked if Price or Stroman move into relief roles after their final start of the series, either.
One area where Gibbons may have found some luck is in his decision to let let Aaron Sanchez face left-handed hitters in game five. If there is any other option, this should never happen.
Going forward, much of this will depend on the status of Aaron Loup, who is currently away from the team while dealing with a family matter. David Price’s return to the rotation will leave Loup as the only lefty-on-lefty matchup worth valuing. There’s rumblings that Brett Cecil could be eyeing a very unexpected comeback in time for a World Series appearance, but I’m left to wonder if Mark Buehrle gets a little more consideration entering the ALCS.
The past 22 years have conditioned us to focus on what could have or should have gone wrong, but on Wednesday night, for a brief moment, baseball was perfect. The ALCS will quickly provide us with a new laundry list of problems, but Gibbons and the Blue Jays have escaped their first test. Now, it’s time to make some memories.