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Blue Jays can find 2015 hope in '85 despair

ALCS rematch of 30 years ago saw Royals come back from 0-2 deficit

TORONTO -- If the Toronto Blue Jays need any encouragement that this American League Championship Series is far from over, they only need to look at …

The Toronto Blue Jays.

That would be the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays.

Thirty years ago, the Blue Jays and Royals played a classic ALCS, with Kansas City winning Game 7 to advance to the World Series. It had some of both franchise's biggest stars.

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Royals third baseman George Brett already was one of the game's great stars and a future Hall of Famer. Others -- Dan Quisenberry, Dick Howser, Frank White -- will live forever in the hearts and minds of Royals fans.

Likewise, the Blue Jays of 1985 had Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb, Willie Upshaw and Ernie Whitt. Others, too, plenty of others.

The '85 ALCS was a heavyweight fight, with five of the games decided by two runs or fewer. And for the 2015 Blue Jays, the lesson is this.

The home team held court at the beginning of the series, just as the Royals have done in the 2015 version. In 1985, it was Toronto winning Games 1 and 2 in its park.

When the two teams split Games 4 and 5 in Kansas City, the Blue Jays led the series, three games to one.

The Blue Jays needed one win to go to the World Series. They had three chances to do it. The memory of what happened after that still haunts some of the '85 Blue Jays.

"We thought we were the best team in baseball," outfielder Moseby told the Toronto Sun last week. "Maybe fate was on their side."

After winning Game 4, the Blue Jays never had a lead, and the Royals won three potential elimination games in a row, including Games 6 and 7 in Toronto.

Video: Former Royals, Blue Jays compare 1985 and 2015 clubs

So if the 2015 Blue Jays are having any doubts, they only need to ask around. It can be done. It has been done.

The '85 ALCS might have been Brett's finest hour. He hit three home runs and batted .348 in the series, and he had a hand in 11 of Kansas City's 26 runs (scoring six, driving in five).

He reminded the world that sometimes great players can will their teams to win. He simply wasn't going to lose.

"When it was over, we looked back on it: George Brett beat us by himself," Blue Jays reliever Tom Henke told the Sun.

That series is a reminder that each game of a postseason series has a heartbeat of its own, and that teams capable of playing at a certain level seldom go quietly.

The 2015 Blue Jays won 43 of 61 down the stretch, one of the great finishing kicks in recent years. Along the way, they developed toughness and confidence.

Those things will serve them well now as they prepare to play Game 3 of this year's ALCS on Monday (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time at 8 p.m.) at Rogers Centre.

In 1985, the final three games are the ones that haunt the Blue Jays still. Here's how the last three went:

Game 5: Royals left-hander Danny Jackson threw a 2-0 shutout to send the series back to Toronto. The Blue Jays were headed back home to finish it out. They needed to win once.

Game 6: The Royals forced a Game 7 with a 5-3 win. Brett drove in a run in the bottom of the first inning to get the Royals going, and he then homered in the sixth to break a 2-2 tie. Royals manager Howser got 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief from one of his top starters, Buddy Black.

Game 7: Jim Sundberg's opposite-field, bases-loaded triple broke the game open in the sixth inning. Another Kansas City starter, Charlie Leibrandt, pitched 5 1/3 innings in relief.

Seen in the perspective of 30 years, the games were close, but there was never a point where the Blue Jays seemed about to position themselves for the closeout victory.

The Royals would following that series up by winning another seven-game series against the Cardinals in the World Series. For the 1985 Blue Jays, the pain may never go completely away. But it's a reminder for the 2015 Blue Jays that other teams have been in a 2-0 hole and been able to write their own ending.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
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