Blue Jays Stave Off Elimination on Strength of Estrada’s Gem
By Ryan Andrews
The question has been will the Blue Jays pony up the money to pay David Price this offseason. Perhaps they should be asking if Toronto will pony up for Marco Estrada instead.
Toronto needed a strong performance out of Estrada following a disastrous Game 4 and the 32-year old native of Ciudad Obregón, Mexico delivered just what the doctor ordered. Estrada faced the minimum amount of batters through six and two thirds innings and pitched into the eighth inning for the Blue Jays, easing the strain on a battered bullpen.
Chris Colabello provided the only run in the first five innings with a solo home run off Edinson Volquez. The Royals’ starter ran into control problems in the sixth, walking three batters and plunking one, forcing a run home before Troy Tulowitzki smacked an 0-1 fastball into the gap in left-center, clearing the bases and giving the Blue Jays an insurmountable lead. Chants of “Jays in Seven” could be heard ringing through the old dome as the Toronto fans have had their faith restored with a galvanizing performance from their team.
Once again, Alcides Escobar swung at the first pitch of the game, but this time Estrada retired Escobar on a ground out to third. After a four run first yesterday, the Royals were shut down in the opening frame this afternoon as Estrada K’d Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain. The Jays went down in order in the bottom half.
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Ryan Goins showed no signs of panic on a bobbled ground ball off the bat of Kendrys Morales in the second. He recovered in time to throw out the designated hitter at first. Estrada followed by reeling Mike Moustakas back from a 3-0 count to record his third strikeout of the game. He was rewarded with a lead as Chris Colabello took an 0-2 changeup and deposited it in center field. His second of the post-season was a solo shot for a 1-0 Toronto lead. A Dioner Navarro walk was left stranded on first on another excellent defensive play by Zobrist, robbing Kevin Pillar.
Estrada continued to deal, racking up another K on Alex Gordon with a pair of changeups and handcuffing ex-Jay Alex Rios on a weak grounder. Volquez matched him, the highlight being Josh Donaldson‘s swing on a 3-0 pitch resulting in an angry ground ball to Escobar, who airmailed the throw and still had the third baseman by ten feet.
Escobar did get on base with a leadoff single in the fourth, the first base runner allowed. He was immediately erased as Zobrist grounded into the trusty 4-6-3 double play. Jose Bautista matched with an infield single into the hole to lead off the Jays’ half. Edwin Encarnacion grounded into a fielder’s choice, and then Colabello gave Kansas City the double play ball to end the inning.
Once again, the Royals were set down in order, via a Hosmer ground out, and fly balls from Morales and Moustakas. Just 64 pitches were necessary for Estrada to retire 15 batters. Outside of an “excuse me” check swing bunt single from Pillar, the Blue Jays were unable to build on their lead.
Sal Perez hit the most dangerous ball off Estrada in the sixth, a deep fly ball that died and settled in Pillar’s glove on the warning track. Goins made a beautiful play on Gordon’s slow roller before Estrada got another fly ball out of Rios. In the bottom half, Ben Revere fouled a ball off his leg, but showed no sign of injury as he worked Volquez for a walk. The trouble continued as Volquez plunked Donaldson on the elbow pad. The Jays faithful let Volquez have it, recalling the incident from August, but this game was too important for shenanigans to ensue.
Kelvin Herrera started warming up but it wasn’t soon enough to face Bautista. A ten pitch AB ensued, complete with multiple Perez walks to the mound, before Bautista walked down to first, loading the bases for Edwin. Volquez stayed in, and ran another full count to Encarnacion walking him, the third of the inning, and the first to score a run. Ned Yost argued as he ended the starter’s night, bringing Herrera was called into a bases loaded, no out spot. Herrera fanned Colabello, who was swinging for the fences, before Tulowitzki delivered the dagger, a bases clearing double to build a five run lead. The strikeouts of Navarro and Pillar were of little consequence to the fans in RogerSkyDome, who were still cheering as the inning came to a close.
David Price warmed in the bullpen, potentially to face the middle of the lineup in a situation described earlier today on this site. Estrada made sure Price wouldn’t be necessary though, as he retired Escobar and Zobrist via groundout. Cain drew a four-pitch walk to bring up Hosmer who lifted a lazy fly to Revere, right in front of Price who took a seat, knowing he’d be needed for another day. The FS1 crew said that Estrada was using this as an audition for the off-season, where he’ll hit free agency. He’s done very well, eight figure well according to Tony Ambrogio.
Danny Duffy came out of the Kansas City pen to eat the remaining innings, and he gave up back to back two-out doubles to Donaldson and Bautista in the seventh, plating another run. Edwin was K’d as Duffy would eventually strike out the side.
Estrada was feeling it to start the eighth, striking out a swinging Morales. Moustakas was retired on a fly to center before Perez broke up the shutout bid with a solo shot to right that just cleared the wall. Gordon smoked the next pitch for a single that ended Estrada’s night. There was a smile on his face as he walked off the mound to a thunderous ovation from the Blue Jay Faithful. If that was his last start in Toronto, it could not have gone any better.
Aaron Sanchez entered and immediately allowed a single to Rios, raising the tension as Escobar and his .556 average came to the plate. Sanchez coaxed a fly ball to right that was caught to end the inning. Toronto got another hit from Tulowitzki, a one-out single. Duffy struck out Navarro before Pillar smoked a liner over the head of Cain that rolled to the wall. Tulowitzki scored just before Pillar was gunned down at third base on a great tag by Moustakas as Pillar overshot the bag.
Justin Smoak entered the game at first alongside Roberto Osuna, who retired Zobrist on his first pitch via a groundout to Goins. Cain ended his thirteen game hitting streak with a comebacker to the mound. Hosmer tapped it back to Smoak to end the game and send the fans home still cheering, and the teams back to Kansas City for Game 6 on Friday, 8:05ET.
- Volquez was able to hit 98MPH with his two seamer today.
- Joe Buck had to ask if Jays fans were chanting “Vol-quez, Vol-quez.” Considering how it was used on Cueto in Game 3, that shouldn’t have been a question.
- Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna was very lenient on the outside corner of the plate. Both Volquez and Estrada worked it often and Iassogna would often give the verdict in favor of both starting pitchers.
- Colabello’s home run was the first off Volquez’s changeup since July 2014, as per Tom Verducci. Philadelphia’s Cody Asche took it yard when Volquez was still in Pittsburgh.
- If you had the third inning for the first mention of Tulowitzki’s “ragged glove,” you win the door prize.
- David Price was seen in the bullpen in the third, talking to Mark Lowe. Lowe was more interested in studying his left arm.
- If you had the fifth inning for the first “Back to the Future” reference, you are betting on too many different things. Bodog is getting out of hand.
- Buck did have a good point regarding Sanchez standing behind the padding as he was warming up in the sixth. Not letting Estrada see him and get worried about the end of his day.
- Speaking of Buck, his playoff beard needs work.
- Estrada faced the minimum amount of batters for 6 2/3 innings, the longest streak for an American League pitcher in the postseason since Don Larsen‘s perfect game in 1956!
- Moustakas was flexing his hand following the collision with Pillar at third base in the eighth. He told Ned Yost he was fine, but it is something to look at ahead of Game 6 on Friday.
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