Steve Keating Steve Keating's Profile Thu, 22 Oct 2015 01:15:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Blue Jays stay alive with dominant win over Royals Thu, 22 Oct 2015 00:34:09 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Toronto Blue Jays got a pitching masterpiece from Marco Estrada in a one-sided 7-1 win on Wednesday to keep their season alive and put the Kansas City Royals’ hopes of securing a World Series berth on hold.

Estrada allowed three hits and one run in 7-2/3 innings and faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings as Toronto pulled to within 3-2 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

“Today he was absolutely dynamite,” Royals managers Ned Yost said of Estrada. “He didn’t miss spots. His change-up was fantastic, he just didn’t give us anything to hit.”

Chris Colabello gave Toronto the early lead with a second inning solo home run and Troy Tulowitzki broke the game open in the sixth when he lined a three-run double to centre to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead.

The Royals will get another chance to clinch their second consecutive trip to the World Series when the series resumes in Kansas City on Friday.

“We knew it was going to be a tough series,” Yost told reporters. “After winning the first two games, in reality your goal is to come to Toronto, kind of a foreign environment, and at least win one.

“Then you get to go home and win one there and the series is over. Now we’re going back to a place where we are completely comfortable. That’s why home field advantage was so important to us.”

Despite a momentum-building win the Blue Jays still face a daunting challenge. Only 12 of 79 MLB teams to trail a League Championship Series or World Series have rallied back to win the best-of-seven battle.

The Royals, however, are aware as any team that anything can happen having twice erased similar deficits themselves.

In the 1985 ALCS the roles were reversed with the Royals rallying from 3-1 down to beat Toronto and again versus the St. Louis Cardinals to win that year’s World Series.

It is not unfamiliar territory for Toronto, who dropped the opening two games of the best-of-five AL Division Series to the Texas Rangers before winning the next three games to advance.

“We didn’t panic and that’s what we do,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “That’s what makes our offense so good. Guys take their walks and it sets up things for other guys.”

After two slugfests that produced 35 total runs, Game Five was a classic pitchers’ duel between Estrada and Royals starter Edinson Volquez.

Facing a do-or-die situation and their bullpen in tatters, Estrada delivered a performance the Blue Jays desperately needed while Volquez was nearly as effective limiting Toronto’s big bats to one run until the sixth.

Volquez began the inning with a lead off walk to Ben Revere then hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch and walked Jose Bautista to load the bases.

He then walked Edwin Encarnacion to bring across a run before Tulowitzki brought the capacity crowd to its feet with a thundering shot to the wall.

Toronto would add another run in the seventh to surge ahead 6-0 before Salvador Perez’s two-out solo shot in the eighth would ruin the shutout.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

]]> 0
Royal Rios gives Blue Jays fans more reason to boo Wed, 21 Oct 2015 02:30:59 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – Former Blue Jay Alex Rios has been the main target of Toronto fans’ hostility during the American League Championship Series and on Tuesday the big Kansas City outfielder gave them more reason to jeer.

Rios collected three hits, including a second-inning solo home run, as the Royals hammered the Blue Jays 14-2 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, leaving Kansas City one win away from a return to the World Series.

“I just felt that Alex was going to have a great day today,” said Royals manager Ned Yost. “I told him before the game, ‘You’re going to have a great game today’.

“I don’t know why I felt it. But he sure did. The big home run, to give us the five-run lead and two more singles.

“You feel really good because you know how hard Alex has worked to get to this point this year, with the broken hand and the chicken pox.

“He’s never stopped working hard to get to the playoffs and in his first time in the playoffs he’s doing extremely well.”

Taken in the first round of the 1999 draft, Rios was promoted from the Blue Jays’ minor league system to the big leagues in 2004.

After All Star appearances in 2006 and 2007 he signed a massive seven-year $70 million contract the following year but failed to live up to expectations.

Rios soon became the target of frustrated fans and a symbol of an under-achieving, highly paid team, and when Toronto management was finally able to unload the contract it was viewed as a major achievement.

Rios was placed on waivers in 2009 and claimed by the Chicago White Sox. He spent four years there before moving on to Texas in 2013 and a year later he landed in Kansas City.

Despite the sour end to his time in Canada, the 34-year-old said he took no additional joy in sticking it to his former team.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” shrugged Rios, who went three-for-three at the plate in Game Four. “I think this is a team that we have to go out and beat.

“Even though I played here, I have great memories from when I was here. But it’s just another team that we have to go out and beat. So that’s what we’re focusing on.”

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

]]> 0
Royals rout Jays, one win from World Series berth Wed, 21 Oct 2015 01:04:08 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Kansas City Royals pounced early then powered their way to a 14-2 demolition of the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday to move one win away from reaching the World Series for a second consecutive year.

The Royals, with the help of a two-run homer from Ben Zobrist, scored four runs in the first inning then sealed the victory with a four-run seventh to seize a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.

Game Five is in Toronto on Wednesday.

“We feel good, we like the way we’re playing right now,” Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters. “Our offense has been really, really good.

“We have (Edison) Volquez coming back tomorrow. Our defense is always spectacular and our bullpen is primed to go tomorrow too.

“We’re in really good shape.”

The Blue Jays, who won Monday’s Game Three, sent 40-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the mound with hopes of tying the series.

But the former Cy Young Award winner gave up five runs in 1-2/3 innings that left Toronto in a 5-0 hole they could not overcome despite scoring two runs in the third and Australian reliever Liam Hendriks providing 4-1/3 innings of spotless relief to keep their comeback hopes alive.

But the Royals ended any chance of a rally roughing up 42-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who came on in the seventh but failed to record an out and gave up three runs on two hits and then roughed up reliever Ryan Tepera for four runs on five hits.

In a final act of desperation to save his pitchers for what a do-or-die Game Five, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons sent utility infielder Cliff Pennington to the hill to get the final out which he finally managed but not before Kansas City pushed across two more runs to complete the rout.

Pennington becomes the first positional player to pitch in an post-season game in the major leagues.

Alcides Escobar, who sparked the offense with a leadoff single in the first, finished with four RBIs while Lorenzo Cain had three RBIS and Alex Rios chipped in with three hits.

“It was ugly today, no doubt about that. That’s all I can say,” summed up Toronto manager John Gibbons. “It’s a do or die game for us. But they do it all year.

“I think these guys will let this one go and they’ll show up to play tomorrow. Not a more important game this season, really. I know these guys will be ready.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury)

]]> 0
Royals Young gets second start after nine years Tue, 20 Oct 2015 05:23:42 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – Nine years between postseason starts, Kansas City righthander Chris Young will be back on the mound in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday as the Royals try to push the Toronto Blue Jays to the brink.

Leading the best-of-seven series 2-1, Royals manager Ned Yost is taking a Game Four gamble by handing the ball to Young, who has made just two starts since late July.

However, both of those outings were effective with the lanky 6ft-10in (2.08 meters) journeyman allowing a single run over 11 1/3 innings of work.

“He’s got great numbers, he’s always had great numbers,” Yost told reporters on Monday. “He’s had good success against some of these hitters.

“His height and his deception in his delivery, his competitiveness. He had a great outing against Houston in Kansas City and his last two starts were really, really good.”

Young broke into the majors in 2004 and over 11 seasons has played for five different teams, never winning more than 12 games in a campaign.

This season, the 36-year-old posted a record of 11-6 in 34 appearances that included a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays in July.

He also made a relief appearance in Game One of the AL division series against Houston, giving up a run in four solid innings of work.

“Moments like this are what I dreamed about and aspired to achieve going through surgeries and rehabs,” said Young, looking ahead to his start.

“It’s been nine years since I’ve been in the postseason, and now to have this opportunity and help this club who has, one, lifted me up, and secondly, given me an opportunity.

“Comparing myself to nine years ago, I guess at the time I thought there would be a lot more playoff opportunities going through it.

“Maybe have lost a few miles an hour on the fastball but hope I can make up for it with a little bit more between the ears.”

Known as a fly ball pitcher, Young has benefited from playing home games at the expansive Kauffman Stadium, which gave up the fewest home runs in the major leagues this season.

The cozy Rogers Centre however, is known as a hitters ball park and Young will be challenged to keep the ball from flying into the stands.

“If he’s got the fastball and slider going he’s going to be very, very tough,” Yost added. “Again, every pitcher has to execute.

“If a pitcher executes he’s going to be in good shape. If he doesn’t, he probably won’t be in good shape. But we expect Chris to execute tomorrow (Tuesday).”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

]]> 0
Blue Jays bats come to life to beat Royals Tue, 20 Oct 2015 04:58:43 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Toronto Blue Jays blasted their way back into the American League championship Series with an 11-8 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday, the home side delivering a landslide victory on election day in Canada.

Trailing 2-0 after losses in Kansas City, the Blue Jays returned to the Roger Centre’s hitter-friendly confines and got a three-run blast from Troy Tulowitzki and a two-run shot from Josh Donaldson in a six-run third inning to open a 9-2 lead.

Ryan Goins added a solo homer in the fifth for the Blue Jays, who will host Game Four of the best-of-seven series on Tuesday.

“That’s really what we are all about (hitting),” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters. “We desperately needed that breakout.

“The home run ball, which we are known for, was a huge part of the game.”

With the country’s attention divided between electing a new prime minister and the baseball playoffs, the Blue Jays stepped out into a raucous arena knowing full well the task that awaited them if they were to fall further behind.

Only once in Major League history has a team, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, clawed their way out of 0-3 hole .

The situation, however, was not completely unfamiliar for the Blue Jays, who dropped the opening two games of the best-of-five AL Division Series to the Texas Rangers before storming back to sweep the next three, but it was a high wire act that Toronto and their fans were not eager to walk.


The most lethal hitting team in baseball, the Blue Jay bats have been boom or bust in the postseason and on Monday they were firing on all cylinders, cranking out 11 hits.

The Royals, however, were the first to get busy with Alcides Escobar tagging Toronto starter Marcus Stroman for a first inning leadoff triple then scoring on a Ben Zobrist groundout to grab a 1-0 lead.

But Toronto hit right back, rattling Royals starter Johnny Cueto for three runs in the second to match the total they scored in the first two games of the series.

“You’re hoping somewhere, at the two-inning mark, you’re just hoping that he (Cueto) can make that adjustment,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Tonight he just couldn’t.

“Now we’ve got two more games here, we can go ahead and pour the coals on them.”

Toronto would tag on six more runs in that decisive third inning to chase Cueto from the game and continued to bludgeon Kansas City’s pitching by building an 11-4 lead before the Royals pushed across four consolation runs in the ninth.

“It is the same every single day in the club house,” said Stroman, after picking up his first postseason win. “You could not tell if we’re down 0-2 or up 2-0.

“What we have is extremely special the confidence that everybody has… just looking forward to keeping it going.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury/John O’Brien)

]]> 0
Despite collapse Rangers exit with heads held high Thu, 15 Oct 2015 02:40:03 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Texas Rangers saw their post-season unravel in spectacular style with three consecutive errors in the seventh inning allowing the Toronto Blue Jays to steal a 6-3 win on Wednesday and a trip to the American League Championship Series.

The Rangers had opened the best-of-five AL Division Series by taking two wins in Toronto but followed that with three successive losses, including two at home.

Despite the nose dive the Rangers exited the post-season with their heads held high having exceeded expectations.

“Where we started in spring training, the entire baseball world had us, I think, picked 27th, I believe,” said Rangers manager Jeff Banister.

“We lost our ace, we lost our number two (starter), we lost our left-fielder, our third baseman has been playing hurt all year long. We had three players coming back from significant injuries.

“We have had so many contributors this year that one inning in a set of three games will not define our season.

“One game, one inning, a set of three will not define what these group of guys were capable of doing this year.”

With starter Cole Hamels keeping the Blue Jays in check for 6-1/3 innings the Rangers looked in control taking a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.

But Texas self-destructed with a run of three consecutive errors, including two by Elvis Andrus.

After Josh Donaldson hit a single to score Kevin Pillar to tie the game at 3-3, slugger Jose Bautista slammed a three-run homer into the second deck.

“Look, one inning won’t define who this ball club is and who they’ve been all year long,” said Banister. “Challenging and I hurt for them.

“Cole (Hamels) did what he needed to do. We failed to make a couple plays behind him. We talked about it, the team that makes mistakes is going to be in trouble, bottom line.

“We are not a perfect ball club, by any stretch of the imagination, but what we do is we go out and play hard every single day. We show up for each other.

“We won the American League West when nobody thought we would do anything in the game of baseball.

“I’m most proud of how those guys played all year long, and how they showed up.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

]]> 0
Blue Jays in seventh heaven after wild inning keys win Thu, 15 Oct 2015 01:27:26 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – What started out as the inning from hell turned into seventh heaven for the Toronto Blue Jays as they channeled their anger into a four-run burst and a trip to the American League Championship with a 6-3 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

With the best-of-five series level at 2-2 a tense game turned during a stormy seventh inning, which had managers and umpires checking the rule book, featured two dugout clearing confrontations, an incensed capacity crowd showering the field with debris and Toronto playing the game under protest.

Jose Bautista then belted a three-run homer to give the Blue Jays a lead they would not surrender.

Things had turned bizarre when Toronto catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the pitcher deflected off Choo Shin-soo’s bat and trickled to the infield allowing Roughned Odor to speed home from third to put Texas in front 3-2.

Confusion followed as both managers charged from the dugout to plead their cases to home plate umpire Dale Scott.

As the debate dragged on, the crowd filled the air with jeers and debris, some of which came close to hitting players.

Toronto’s John Gibbons argued that Choo had interfered with Martin’s throw back to reliever Aaron Sanchez but after a video review the run was confirmed.

“Choo’s standing in the batters’ box doing what he always does, the play’s not dead, the ball was thrown, went off of Choo’s hand,” said Texas manager Jeff Banister. “It’s still a live baseball. That’s the rule.

“So how about my guy being heads-up and scoring on that play and not keeping his head down, because that’s who we are.”

That focus vanished in the bottom half of the seventh inning as the Rangers self-destructed and committed three consecutive errors on routine hits to allow Toronto to load the bases.

After Josh Donaldson hit a single into center to score Dalton Pompey to tie the game, Bautista slammed a three-run homer into the second deck, tossing the bat with added flair that prompted another benches-clearing confrontation.

” “I know crazy things happen in this game, especially this time of year …I’m still not certain what happened, what was going on what the ruling is,” said Gibbons.

“Really it came down to the rules are what they are and I’m still a bit in the fog about that.

“But you didn’t want something like that to be the deciding run in a game of this magnitude, so that was kind of my beef. But the umpire crew did a great job, they really did.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

]]> 0
Blue Jays loss sparks Canadian conspiracy theory Fri, 09 Oct 2015 23:32:13 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Toronto Blue Jays dropped a 14 inning, 6-4 heartbreaker to the Texas Rangers on Friday and head to Arlington with fans floating conspiracy theories over Major League Baseball covert plans to keep the Canadian franchise out of the World Series.

The euphoria of returning to the playoffs after a 22-year absence fizzled quickly with two losses in 24 hours to leave the Blue Jays trailing the best-of-five Division Series 2-0 and on the brink of elimination.

The Rangers can advance to the American League Championship Series with a win in Arlington on Sunday. Game Four, if necessary, is scheduled for Monday.

A wild contest, that included a 13th inning dugout clearing stare down, was decided when Texas staged a two out rally in the 14th with Hanser Alberto, filling in for injured Adrian Beltre, and Delino DeShields driving in runs.

“It won’t be easy,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons looking ahead to the trip to Texas. “They’ve got a great team over there, they out played us both games.

“They outlasted us, they can keep coming. Very balanced.

“That’s usually the way those games end up when the pitching is that good.

“It comes down to the very end and a lot of times you get down to your last bullet.”

The festive atmosphere that greeted the home team for Game One was toned down several notches for a Friday matinee that had a do-or-die vibe.

Historically in the majors, the winner of the Division Series opener subsequently wins a best-of-five series 73 percent of the time, so there was reason for the jittery urgency as giddy anticipation gave way to hand-wringing and angst.

There was some upbeat news for the Blue Jays before the first pitch with the team’s two best players sluggers Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista on the lineup card after leaving Game One with injuries.

Bautista, forced out in the ninth inning with cramps, was back patrolling his outfield post while Donaldson, a leading American League most valuable player candidate, showed no lingering effects from taking a knee to the head slamming a first inning solo home run on Thursday.

As the contest deadlocked at 4-4 and moved into extra innings, tension mounted in the capacity crowd of close to 50,000.

Many grew increasingly grumpy as a couple of challenges went against the home side, including a crucial call in the 14th when Rougned Odor was called safe after appearing to overrun the bag and tagged as his foot left the bag.

Odor was called safe and would go on to register the go-ahead run on Alberto’s single to right-center.

Seconds after Ross Ohlendorf struck out Kevin Pillar to clinch the win, Twitter and social media was lit up by angry Canadian fans over what they viewed as a deliberate attempt to keep Blue Jays out of the Fall Classic.

“We felt like he was on the bag, obviously the call stood so that is part of the game,” shrugged Rangers manager Jeff Banister. “If it goes the other way, we live with it and move on.”

Gibbons also refused to bite on complaints of a changing strike zone and close calls, dismissing it as part of the game.

“I don’t get into that,” said Gibbons. “There was complaining on both sides but that’s behind us.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)

]]> 0
Blue Jays get spotlight, Rangers get win Fri, 09 Oct 2015 01:24:47 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Toronto Blue Jays were anointed as World Series favorites after a sizzling second half finish to the season that brought them back to the Major League Baseball playoffs for the first time in 22 years.

Below .500 at the all-star break, the Blue Jays took flight and closed out the campaign with a 43-18 run that made them the postseason darlings.

Mostly overlooked in the Blue Jay hoopla were Toronto’s American League Division Series opponents the Texas Rangers, who grabbed everyone’s attention on Thursday with a 5-3 Game One win to take control of the best-of-five series.

While the Blue Jays and their booming bats were grabbing the headlines, the Rangers were also putting together a remarkable run, going 41–22 down the stretch to claw their way to the Central division crown and back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.

The slight did not go unnoticed in Texas, who made a ‘hey don’t forget about us’ statement by slamming a pair of home runs off Toronto ace David Price and grinding their way to a victory that ended with two of Toronto’s most dangerous sluggers Josh Donaldson (concussion) and Jose Bautista (cramps) in the training room.

“Well, we’ve got a very confident group of guys,” said Rangers manager Jeff Banister. “We’ve got a group of guys that they absolutely love playing together and they’ve been up against it all year long since spring training.

“We know that we’re a ballclub that’s not a perfect ballclub, but we’ve got a group of guys that play extremely well together.

“They love playing the game of baseball together and they find a way to meet the demands of the game.

“All they know is they want to go out and play baseball.”

The victory over American League Cy Young contender Price allowed Texas to take control of series as they send ace lefthander Cole Hamels to the hill for Game Two on Friday against Marcus Stroman.

Acquired by Texas at the trade deadline, Hamels, the 2008 World Series most valuable player helping the Philadelphia Phillies to the Fall Classic, has been work horse for the Rangers who have won the last 10 games started by the lefthander, including a 9-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels to clinch the division title.

“I think the postseason’s where it’s at,” said Hamels. “These are the moments that I enjoy the most, so I think in order to get here you do have to have a sense of focus.

“Then when you’re here, you try to lay it all out on the line because sometimes you don’t get that second chance.

“This is the reason we play baseball. No matter what team we play for, we want to be able to play in front of a high octane crowd and this is what Toronto offers.

“So this is what it’s all about.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Both)

]]> 0
Blue Jays endure rough return to postseason baseball Fri, 09 Oct 2015 00:38:48 +0000 TORONTO (Reuters) – The Toronto Blue Jays and their fans had a sobering return to MLB’s postseason party on Thursday as their ace pitcher struggled in a losing effort and two of their best players left the game with injuries.

The American League Division Series opener was played a day after Toronto’s National Hockey League team kicked off a new season, an event that would normally have the hockey-mad city doing cartwheels.

That game, however, was greeted with a ho-hum shrug as the Blue Jays seized the city’s sporting spotlight after engineering a second-half resurgence that led to their first postseason berth since 1993, when they won their second successive World Series.

But the Blue Jays’ postseason return did not produce the result a capacity crowd of nearly 50,000 had hoped for as the visiting Texas Rangers drew first blood in the best-of-five series with a 5-3 win.

The Blue Jays and their supporters will have little time to agonize over the loss with the teams scheduled to resume their series on Friday.

“Every game’s vital really, you’ve got to win three out of five,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “The thing we’ve got going for us is, I think, we’ve been resilient all year.

“We’ve lost some tough games and we don’t lose many in a row normally. … We always seem to respond.”

The last time the Blue Jays were in the postseason they were owned by a brewery and not a telecommunications giant. Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky, now a grandfather, was still in his prime and the Internet was the stuff of science fiction.

The Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967 and the city’s Major League Soccer team have not played a playoff game in their eight-year-existence.

With the bar set comfortably low the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, founded in 1995, have made the playoffs seven times but only advanced beyond the first round once.

So it was the Blue Jays again restoring a dose of sporting pride with an astonishing late season run.

At the All-Star break in June the Blue Jays were sitting eight games back of the division lead and the postseason hopes of even the most diehard fans wilting in the summer heat.

But then Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos stepped up to the plate and swung for the fences.

In a 48-hour trade blitz, Anthopoulos upset the status quo by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, one of baseball’s best shortstops, from the Colorado Rockies and David Price, the ace pitcher the club had coveted, from the Detroit Tigers.

The mid-season makeover continued with the addition of speedy outfielder Ben Revere and switch-hitting utility infielder Cliff Pennington.

Those pieces joined forces with offseason signings like Canadian-born catcher Russell Martin and slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson, a leading candidate for American League most valuable player honors.

Those blocks joined the cornerstones of the team, sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and suddenly the Blue Jays were transformed into World Series favorites closing the season with on a remarkable 43-18 run to reclaim the American League East Division crown.

]]> 0