TORONTO (Oct. 22) — It is the great paradox of baseball.
No sport is more affiliated with or dependent on statistics. You want to know how this batter did against that pitcher on a sunny day in August with two medium–sized clouds above the stadium and the catcher suffering from jock–itch, chances are it’s out there somewhere. Conversely, and because of pitching, no sport can be so different from one day to the next. In hockey, one goalie plays the majority of games. Predictability becomes common. In baseball, five different pitchers will start in as many days; four during the playoffs. As such, you can easily have a 14–2 result for one team on Tuesday and a 7–1 result for the opponent on Wednesday. Such as in Games 4 and 5 of the 2015 American League Championship Series.
This pitching–dependent disparity kept the Toronto Blue Jays alive… and now just two wins shy of playing in the World Series for the first time since 1993. On Tuesday, R.A. Dickey would have struggled against the visually impaired. On Wednesday, Marco Estrada foiled the Major League’s most fundamentally–proficient line–up, yielding three hits over 7.2 stellar innings. Troy Tulowitski’s bases–clearing double in the bottom of the sixth was more than enough support for Estrada and it blew open a still–tight, 2–0 game.
A sellout crowd of 49,325 arrived with reservation after the 12–run romp by Kansas City on Tuesday, fearing — perhaps expecting — the Blue Jays to finally succumb. Instead, Estrada and Tulowitzki enabled the club to avoid elimination for the fourth time in these remarkable 2015 playoffs.
Now, it’s back to Kauffman Stadium for Game 6 on Friday night with Toronto’s quasi–ace, David Price, on the mound. For six innings last Saturday, in Game 2, Price was every–bit as dominant as Estrada in Game 5. Then, a defensive gaffe by second–baseman Ryan Goins turned the table. Price lost his command and the Blue Jays fell into a 2–0 series hole. Again, the club’s key, trade–deadline acquisition has an opportunity to make his mark as a playoff performer. With a weakened bullpen, the Jays need seven or eight shut–down innings from Price. If he delivers, the ball goes to Marcus Stroman for Saturday’s decisive match.
If not, Estrada’s gem will have merely extended the inevitable.
I had terrific seats for Game 5 at Rogers Centre — in the top row of field–level Sec. 126, between home and third–base. It allowed for some nifty close–ups with my trusty NIKON:
THE MOUNTIES CARRIED THE COLORS FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEMS.
KANSAS CITY STARTER EDINSON VOLQUEZ HAD THE BLUE JAYS NUMBER IN THE SERIES OPENER AND HE DID A GOOD JOB AGAINST THE BIG BATS EARLY IN GAME 5. KEY WORD: EARLY.
MARCO ESTRADA WAS DIALED IN ALL AFTERNOON… AND EARLY EVENING.
ESTRADA’S FIRST OF THREE BASE RUNNERS: ALCIDES ESCOBAR SINGLED IN THE FOURTH AND WAS ERASED ON A DOUBLE PLAY. ESTRADA FACED THE MINIMUM 18 BATTERS OVER SIX INNINGS OF SPARKLING WORK — AMONG THE BEST IN BLUE JAYS PLAYOFF HISTORY.
A THIRD WALK FORCED IN REVERE AND ENDED THE DAY FOR VOLQUEZ. ON HIS WAY OFF THE FIELD, K.C. MANAGER NED YOST HAD SOME CHOICE WORDS FOR PLATE UMPIRE DAN IASSOGNA.
TULO SENT TEAMMATES AND THE CROWD INTO A FRENZY WITH A BASES–CLEARING DOUBLE TO CENTER OFF RELIEVER KELVIN HERERA THAT PUT THE BLUE JAYS INTO A COMMANDING LEAD.