Shaking off a 14-2 drubbing in Game 4, the Blue Jays bounced back in Game 5 behind a gem by starter Marco Estrada, an early Chris Colabello homer, and Troy Tulowitzki breaking things open with a bases-clearing double. With a 7-1 win Toronto forced a Game 6 in the ALCS, back in Kansas City on Friday night.
Estrada and Royals starter Edinson Volquez were locked into a 1-0 pitcher’s duel through five innings, but the Blue Jays worked deep counts and took advantage of a tight strike zone to break through in the sixth frame and knock out Volquez.
Estrada had a one-hit shutout through 7.2 innings, eventually giving up a solo homer to Salvador Perez and a single to Alex Rios before exiting. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ simple parting word to Estrada as he went out to the mound and took the ball from the 31-year-old journeyman with a 3.95 career ERA summed it up: “Wow.”
Toronto’s much-maligned bullpen did its job without incident, as Aaron Sanchez wriggled out of Estrada’s jam in the eighth inning and Roberto Osuna pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a non-save situation to lock down the win. Gibbons resisted using David Price in another relatively low-leverage relief outing, which means he has a fully rest Price ready to start Game 6 and a fully rested Marcus Stroman ready for a potential Game 7.
This series has been filled with some very low moments for the Blue Jays, but they acquired Price from the Tigers for this exact purpose and Gibbons has even more faith in Stroman than Price. Heading back to Kansas City with a 3-2 series lead and a fully rested Yordano Ventura for Game 6 has to make the Royals feel pretty good about their chances, but Johnny Cueto is looming in Game 7 after his disastrous Game 3 start and whatever lack of confidence Blue Jays fans have in Price is nothing compared to how skeptical Royals fans are of Cueto.
Toronto needs its impending free agent ace acquired at the trade deadline to come through big in Game 6 and Kansas City wants to end the series Friday night so its impending free agent ace acquired at the trade deadline doesn’t have to come through big in Game 7.