One had to expect there would be a game like last night at some point in the ALCS. You know, one where the Blue Jays just score too many runs. When a 95 win team with the best record in the first half of the season faces a 93 win team with the best record in the second half of the season, expecting a sweep is simply not realistic.
It would have been unreasonable to expect Johnny Cueto to throw another eight inning two hit gem, but reasonable to expect something other than a two inning eight run four walk disaster that he ended up providing in front of a national audience that no doubt included the five or six men contemplating throwing millions of dollars at him this off-season.
Cueto simply could not locate a pitch. Were the Royals being too cute with multiple signs and Perez waiting to the last second to set his target? Were they a little too worried about what the Blue Jays may or may not be doing? I don’t know, maybe. I do know Cueto was awful last night.
That said, this is a talented Toronto lineup that scored 137 more runs this season than any other team. They were due, after amassing just three runs in the first two games to explode and they did. They are a dramatically better team playing in Rogers Centre than anywhere else and it showed. It was bound to happen.
Now, the Royals did not curl up in a ball and whimper.
Kris Medlen, after serving up a giant home run to Josh Donaldson (possibly the only player in the league who makes me say ‘you know Eric Hosmer’s haircut isn’t that bad’) allowed only one other run in FIVE big innings of relief. He was tagged for a solo shot by Ryan Goins, but was otherwise pretty much untouchable. The outing was huge in that it allowed Ned Yost to save really all of his bullpen for better days.
On the offensive side, down seven, the Royals scratched a couple of runs across in the fifth courtesy of Alcides Escobar and Ben Zobrist, who accounted for six of the team’s eight runs and seven of their fifteen hits. They could not muster any other challenge in sixth, allowing the Blue Jays to milk an extra four outs out of the only marginally effective Marcus Stroman.
In the end, however, the Royals made it interesting, plating four runs in the top of the ninth with still two outs to play with. I did not truly feel as though Kansas City was going to make it all the way back, but it was enough to force Toronto to go to their closer to finish the game. In fact, despite leading by six and seven runs most of the night and winning by three, the Blue Jays did use their top three relievers last night, while the Royals saved everyone that they would use in a close game. That could prove to be an important fact today and tomorrow.
More than anything, last night’s contest pointed out just how different these two teams are. The Royals had 15 hits and one walk, the Blue Jays 11 hits and six walks. The Jays scored six of their runs via the long ball, the Royals just two (and that in the game’s last inning). Also, at least one Blue Jay thinks it is cool to wear eye black..indoors…at night.
Last night’s game was an example of what we all knew this series would be: a test to see if the Royals can put the ball in play more than the Blue Jays can hit it over the fence.
As Craig detailed yesterday, the Royals will send Chris Young to the mound this afternoon and hope the tall soft thrower who believes in the fly ball can somehow keep those balls on Lorenzo Cain’s side of the fence. In turn the Blue Jays will throw knuckle balling R.A. Dickey out in hopes he can guide the Royals’ balls towards Troy Tulowitzki’s glove, where we know the induce glare of indoor baseball will not effect the Toronto shortstop.
The baseball post-season is littered with unlikely heroes. The Royals need Chris Young, the exact opposite kind of pitcher one would logically like to see facing the Blue Jays in Toronto, to be one of those unlikely heroes and give them a stranglehold on this series.