It was not to be. Despite our hope that the team with the renowned knuckleball pitcher would come from behind to reach the World Series and maybe, why not, even win it, the Toronto Blue Jays did not repeat their American League Division Series resurgence and triumph in the American League Championship Series.
R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball was sub-par in Game 4 (October 20), another loss for the Jays after the team had won Game 3. “To survive,” opined The Globe and Mail’s Cathal Kelly at the time, “the Blue Jays will have to win three consecutive postseason elimination games—something no Toronto team has done since the Jays managed it last week.”
All was not lost. On October 21, the Toronto Sun could provide a headline announcing the Blue Jays had “blast[ed] Royals to force Game 6.”
A day after the Blue Jays were waffled 14-2 by the Royals in Game 4, Estrada imposed his will on the dangerous Kansas City lineup, painting the corners of the plate all afternoon. Over the first 6.2 innings, he faced the minimum 20 batters. The one base-runner he allowed was erased on a double play…
After retiring the first nine batters he faced, Estrada gave up a single to Alcides Escobar, leading off the fourth inning. Escobar was immediately erased on a 4-6-3 double play and the Estrada steamroller cruised on, killing the Royals softly. He erased nine more men in a row after that twin-killing before he issued a two-out walk to Lorenzo Cain in the seventh.
“He’s got pinpoint control,” said [Blue Jays manager John] Gibbons. “That’s a big part of his success and I thought he was sticking his fastball much better tonight.
“He’s pitched like that all year. The fact that it was an elimination game, he really rose to the occasion. He’s a master at what he does. It doesn’t always look pretty, but he’s mastered it.”
After Game 6 on October 23, though, the Kansas City Royals were heading to the World Series and the Toronto Blue Jays were heading home with “bittersweet feelings on a great season as the country came together for baseball” as it had not since 1993, according to The Toronto Star.
The Royals are going back to the World Series and the Blue Jays are going back to the drawing board.
On Friday at Kauffman Stadium, the defending American League champs beat the Jays 4-3 to capture the ALCS in six games. The Jays had been 4-0 to that point in the post-season when facing elimination, but a strong effort by left-hander David Price was not enough.
The verdict of the Star’s Bruce Arthur: “Blue Jays lose a hard-fought battle, end a heck of a season.” Arthur quotes what Jays first baseman Chris Colabello said after the Jays won Game 5:
“There’s a reason that this team is here, and that team’s on that side. I think they’re the two best teams in the American League.
“There’s so much emotion in the games, and when you’re a kid you grow up dreaming about playing in the big leagues and things like that, but when you play in atmospheres like this, where the crowds are loud, and people are so in tune with every pitch, it just takes you to another level as an athlete, and I think sometimes you’re able to do things that you didn’t know you were capable of.
“I know for me, that’s what I’ve lived for my whole life. That’s what I’ve always wanted.”
That’s what Jays fans have wanted for two decades, and a little more, and it’s what they got…. The future is far from certain.
But what a year. This team gave you almost everything you could have asked for. They just needed a little more.
Game 1 of the World Series will be played tomorrow night (October 27), between the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals.