4 ingredients for Blue Jays to keep run alive
KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays have been down this road before. Every time it seems like the season is about to come to an end, Toronto finds a way to pick itself off the ground.
There didn't seem to be a lot of hope after the Blue Jays fell behind Kansas City, 3-1, in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, but all it took was one win to discover a sense of renewed hope.
The task still won't be easy, but here are four key ingredients to the Blue Jays defying the odds once again and continuing their postseason run beyond tonight's Game 6 (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet, 8 p.m. game time).
1. The Price has to be right
David Price is one of two pitchers in Major League history to lose seven consecutive starts in the postseason. He has two wins as a reliever, but in his postseason starting opportunities, the AL Cy Young Award candidate has a 5.44 ERA. That track record will have to change if the Blue Jays are going to push the ALCS to a seventh and final game.
Randy Johnson was the other pitcher who went seven consecutive postseason starts with a loss. He went on to win his next five, and Toronto will have to hope Price follows a similar trajectory. This type of game is exactly why Price was acquired prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and it's time for him to live up to the hype.
2. Backs against the wall
Toronto seems to save its best baseball for when the club needs it most, as the Blue Jays are 4-0 in elimination games this postseason. The only teams to win more than that in one year are the 2012 Giants (six), 1985 Royals (six, including three against Toronto) and the '81 Dodgers (five).
Trailing 0-2 in the Division Series and 3-1 in the Championship Series is a daunting challenge to overcome, but it has been done before. The Giants faced the same scenario in '12 and eventually went on to win the World Series. Even so, the historical numbers aren't kind, as only 12 teams out of 79 (15.2 percent) that trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven series went on to win.
3. Plate discipline
The Blue Jays have done a good job of not pressing at the plate in potential elimination games. A natural reaction to a backs-against-the-wall scenario is trying to do a little too much with everybody wanting to be the hero, but that's something Toronto has avoided so far.
In five postseason victories -- all but one of which were potential elimination games -- Toronto averaged 4.4 walks. In the five losses, the Blue Jays averaged 1.8. Kansas City's Game 6 starter, Yordano Ventura, had the second-most walks on his staff during the regular season with 58. In a Game 2 win, Ventura limited Toronto to two free passes, and that number might have to go up for Toronto's lineup to thrive.
4. The young guns
Toronto manager John Gibbons doesn't have a lot of depth to work with in his bullpen. In Game 5, he had the option of using Price out of the 'pen, but the only starter that will be available for relief innings in Game 6 is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and it seems unlikely Gibbons would be comfortable using him in a close game.
That means there will be even more pressure on Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna at the back end of Toronto's bullpen. The pair has combined to allow just one earned run over 14 1/3 innings this postseason, and if Price eventually runs out of steam, they will be required to close things out. If Price has to be removed before the end of the seventh, then Aaron Loup and Mark Lowe also become key players to watch.