G5: Andreopoulos, Babcock, Bautista, Brett, Estrada, Wells
By Bob Elliott
Back then a young starter changed the direction of the series in more ways than one.
With the Blue Jays a win away from reaching the World Series, Danny Jackson pitched an eight-hit shut out as the Kansas City Royals blanked Toronto 2-0 to force the 1985 American League Championship Series back to Toronto.
And on Wednesday night, with the Royals a win away from reaching the Series, Marco Estrada allowed three hits in 7 2/3 innings as the Blue Jays beat the Royals 7-1 forcing the best-of-seven series to Kansas City. Game 6 goes Friday with David Price starting for the Jays.
In 1985, Jackson was 23 and had made 46 regular season starts.
Estrada, 31, has made 100 starts coming into the post season.
George Brett, who was at Rogers Centre for Game 5, and Darryl Motley knocked in runs in the win over Jimmy Key. George Bell tried to go from first to third on a single to left, was thrown out and called third base ump Dale Ford and the rest of the crew “anti-Canadian.”
Oh Canada ... George Bell stands on guard for thee.
And in this Game 5 Chris Colabello hit the ice breaker, Jose Bautista, who has been known to battle an ump or three, had a key at-bat and Troy Tulowitzki cleared the bases with a wall banger.
The Jays dropped Game 6 and 7 at Exhibition Stadium in 1985.
There is a similar pattern here ... five games in, the team with the lead heading home.
Could the 2015 Jays repeat history with a comeback the way the 1985 Royals did?
“It could happen,” said catcher Dioner Navarro, who put down all the right fingers for Estrada, dominant yet again.
The Jays started Doyle Alexander, 34, in Game 6 against Royals right-hander Mark Gubicza 22 in 1985, while Yordano Ventura, 24, starts for the Royals against David Price, 29 on Friday.
“A lot of people know the history, I know this team would like to go into Kansas City and string together a couple of wins,” said Aaron Sanchez, who picked up Estrada with a scoreless outing. “That would be great to repeat 1985 in reverse and bring the World Series back to Toronto.”
“What makes their lineup so good is the way they string together base hits in bunches. We have to try to limit the damages.”
Sanchez had been told early he was first man on deck in relief of Estrada, whether it was first inning or fifth ... “at the first sign of trouble.”
“After what happened yesterday we really needed Marco to step up,” said Sanchez. The Jays used five pitchers with Liam Hendriks working 4 1/3 innings (“borderline abuse” is what manager John Gibbons called it), Mark Lowe pitched so he was unavailable and Aaron Loup was away attending to a private matter.
“I know after the first few innings Marco had it under control,” Sanchez said. “He was on cruise control.”
Estrada went nine up, nine down.
The thin bullpen should be back to full strength of Game 6.
“Now we’ve allowed ourselves to play another game,” said Bautista. “we have to come into Kansas City and play like we did today.”
‘85 MEMORIES: Jays bullpen catcher Alex Andreopoulos was in grade 8 playing for the High Park Braves and living near Christie Pitts in October of 1985.
“I used to sneak into the games at Exhibition,” said Andreopoulos, “I remember the Jays losing Game 5 in Kansas City. I remember them coming back to Toronto. I remember them losing Game 7. And I remember Game 7.
“Game 7,” he said almost spitting out the words rapid fire, “Dave Stieb pitching. Jim Sundberg. Triple. Off the top of the wall. Bases loaded. Bases empty. I just melted, I might have cried, I forget.”
Now, the Jays try to buck the trend in this version it isn’t a win that got away ... it’s salvaging a series that almost got away.
“I feel comfortable with David Price in Game 6 and if we win Marcus Stroman in Game 7,” said Andreopoulos. “We’re seen teams come back from down 3-1 all the time. I trust out guys. They never give up.”
Like Wednesday, 24 hours after being blown out 14-2, the Jays were locked in a 1-0 battle until the bottom of the sixth.
AT BAT OF THE GAME: There were 66 plate appearances in Game 5 as the Jays won to play again.
The key one? It may have been in the sixth inning with the Jays up 1-0 and runners at first and second.
Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez squared off against Bautista in a 10-pitch at-bat.
The match up featured eight Volquez sinkers and one fastball.
Seven pitches were at 97 mph and two at 96.
After another foul ball catcher Salvadore Perez headed to the mound for a Voloquez visit.
The next pitch was an 83 mph knuckle curve which was down.
The Royals argued Bautista had swung, but plate ump Dan Iassogna and first base ump Jeff Nelson said no.
“He’s dominating us through the start and we were able to get to him, he’s been doing great,” Bautista said. “we don’t have to face him anymore ... I mean, I hope.”
Edwin Encarnacion walked and one out later Tulowitzki doubled clearing the bases for a 5-0 lead.
“(Tulowitzki) didn’t let a first-pitch fastball go by,” said Bautista, “he attacked it. He hit it in the gap and drove three in. In a 2-0 game, an elimination game, that’s obviously by far the hit of the game.”
HOFer: George Brett, special advisor to K.C. general manager Dayton Moore, went for diner this week at Sotto Sotto Ristorante with Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock and Sportsnet’s Buck Martinez.
“Walking in with Mike was like walking in with a rock star, he’s won two Olympic golds for Canada and won the Stanley Cup,” said the Hall of Fame third baseman Wednesday seated in the first base dugout before Game 5 “Of course Buck wasn’t far behind for drawing attention.
“I sat there and watched all the people come to the table asking Mike and Buck for pictures or to sign.”
Babcock used to coach the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League, which Brett and his brothers own. Martinez and Brett were roommates with the Royals.
Brett has received plenty of air time on FOX telecasts sitting in the Rogers Centre seats for Games 3 and 4.
“Two games are enough,” said Brett. “I went into Paul Beeston’s office complained, told him I had a bad back, told him how small the seats were, asked if I could sit in his suite.”
“All he did was laugh, I’m sitting in someone else’s suite.”
MARCO MAGIC: Estrada pitched 7 2/3 innings allowing two singles, a solo homer to Sal Perez and a walk throwing to Navarro. Estrada and Navarro have been an ever ready battery since June.
“His trust level is way up there, but I think they all trust me,” said Navarro. “We do a pretty good job working together.”
Bautista said the Estrada-Navarro pairing was a good decision.
“Putting him with Dioner, how he calls games fits perfectly,” said Bautista. “Adding the cutter, a new pitch for him this season, mixing it in with a great changeup. And his curve have been a game changer.
It’s opened up a whole other window of possibility of how to get people out. He’s a good pitcher. Now that he’s got more weapons, he gets people out easier.”
The right fielder told reporters Estrada was the Jays MVP so far.
“He’s been what we needed, what the doctor ordered he came through and kept them off balance,” said Bautista. “He’s been doing that all year.”
PRE-GAME: Former Jays centre fielder Vernon Wells threw out the ceremonial first pitch -- a strike from atop the mound to Mark Buehrle ... Wells, a former No. 1 pick of scout Jim Hughes, played 12 years for the Jays and was second all-time in runs (789), hits (1,529), doubles (339) and RBIs (813) and sitting third in homers (223).
4-0, AND COUNTING: With the three straight wins against the Texas Rangers and the Game 5 win over the Royals, the Jays are now 4-0 in elimination games.
“There’s a lot of pressure, and not a lot of room for mistakes,” said Bautista. “You can say that hopefully, and when we get to the Series, we’re going to take that experience to our advantage and use it in the World Series.”