TORONTO (Oct. 13) — That loud, hammering noise you heard throughout the weekend was methodical re–construction of the Toronto Blue Jays’ bandwagon. Big surprise, huh?
My goodness how quickly people run white flags up the pole around here.
Yes, the locals were in dire straits after losing the first two games at home in the American League Division Series. But, these are the Blue Jays — a team that can score runs with the flick of a wrist. First, it was Troy Tulowitzki putting away the Texas Rangers on Sunday night. Then, the entire cavalry got into the act — consuming the forever–mediocre Derek Holland Monday afternoon in Arlington for an early 7–0 lead.
Series tied, 2–2. Just like that.
Now, the Blue Jays vie to become only the third team in Major League playoff history to rebound after losing the first two games at home in a best–of–five series. The New York Yankees turned the trick against Oakland in 2001. San Francisco did it against Cincinnati in 2012 and went on to win its second of three World Series titles in the past five years. The deciding match of the Toronto–Texas skirmish goes Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Center. First pitch: 3:07 p.m. — to be delivered by young Marcus Stroman.
That alone will dominate chatter between now and Game 5. But, it’s the right call. David Price hasn’t been a clutch playoff performer and a deciding clash is no time to gamble. Stroman threw better in Game 2 than Price did in the opener, when he walked batters, hit batters and gave up home runs. It is John Gibbons’ responsibility to go with the man that provides his club the best chance of winning on Wednesday. In that regard, Price over Stroman has no foundation. This isn’t the time for politics or being a “nice guy” — which Gibbons certainly is. It’s all about moving on to the American League Championship Series. Stroman is the Blue Jays’ surest bet as a starter, with all hands on deck in for relief — Price included.
JOHN GIBBONS STATES HIS CASE AFTER SUNDAY’S VICTORY IN ARLINGTON.
By the same token, the R.A. Dickey “saga” — being removed from Monday’s game by Gibbons one out shy of qualifying for a win — is a complete non–story. Just like touchy–feely Canadians losing sleep over the remarks of an American TV sportscaster. In 1989, Bob Costas was the anti–Christ for his apparent bias toward Oakland in the ALCS (never mind that the A’s toyed with the Blue Jays). Now, it’s Harold Reynolds of FOX Sports for making an insensitive but harmless crack about people “not growing up with baseball” in Canada and therefore having an inability to catch foul balls. I mean, really… is our inferiority complex still at such a level? Or, does nonsense simply fuel the lunatic fringe of social media? Perhaps it’s both.
Among managers in the Toronto–Texas series, I think Jeff Banister has more explaining to do. He got exactly what he deserved by starting Holland on Sunday — an insurmountable early deficit and two innings of ghastly work. With Colby Lewis available, it was a terrible decision. And, now Banister is rolling the dice again by choosing Cole Hamels to pitch Game 5 rather than Yovani Gallardo, who’s had the Blue Jays number all season — and who pitched better in Game 1 for Texas than Hamels did in Game 2. With the Toronto bats having come alive in Arlington, methinks Mr. Banister is turning to the wrong arm.
Time, of course, will tell.
REMEMBERING THE FIRST TIME
The date coincidence continues when reflecting on the first–ever appearance by the Blue Jays in the playoffs — the 1985 American League Championship Series against Kansas City. It was 30 years ago on Sunday (Oct. 12, 1985) that the Jays prevailed in the ninth inning at Kaufman Stadium to put them one game away from advancing to the next round — in that instance, the World Series. Three decades later, the Blue Jays have shown a new generation of Toronto baseball fans what it feels like to be on the cusp of winning a playoff round. For their sake, let’s hope it turns out differently than in ’85, when the club crafted a 3–1 series lead over the Royals before losing three straight — Games 6 and 7 at old Exhibition Stadium.
Here’s how the local newspapers looked 30 years ago this morning: