The Toronto Blue Jays have become accustomed to dramatics in the seventh inning of the playoffs. But maybe this was payback for their historic seventh inning comeback in Game 5 of the ALDS.
Make no mistake, the seventh inning of Game 2 of the ALCS was the turning point of the game for the Blue Jays. That was when the door of opportunity flung open for the Kansas City Royals. Much like the Jays capitalized in Game 5 of the ALDS, the Royals did the same in Game 2 of the ALCS.
But the entire game may have hinged on the decision to leave David Price in the game just a little too long.
Up until the seventh inning, David Price was cruising through the Kansas City Royals lineup. After giving up a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar, Price retired the next 18 consecutive batters through the sixth inning.
After struggling through his past several starts, David Price had finally settled in and began to look more and more like the pitcher the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline.
But the seventh inning was when it all fell apart, sparked by that bizarre fly ball to right field that fell in between Jose Bautista and Ryan Goins.
That was followed up by two more singles, a ground ball, a single, and the eventual double that would score the game-tying run. It was the Blue Jays’ worst nightmare come to fruition as their three-run lead was squandered in a matter of mere moments.
But with David Price on the hill, was it John Gibbons that left him in too long?
Let’s be honest; Price was a ground ball here or there from getting out of that jam. He got nickle and dimed to death in that inning, as it was single after single after single.
The Royals didn’t really hit that many balls all that hard, and their rally was sparked by a fluke play in right field. The Goins/Bautista gaffe in right field wasn’t the complete undoing of David Price, but it certainly didn’t help.
And although David Price hasn’t quite been his regular season-self in the postseason thus far, if you can’t trust him in a big spot, then who can you trust? Price was brought in not only to carry the Blue Jays into the playoffs, but to pitch in these exact situations.
Truthfully, I don’t know if I can hang the Blue Jays’ loss in Game 2 on David Price; he was stellar through 6 innings and amazingly held the Royals to only one hit and no walks until the seventh inning.
It’s so surprise that the middle of the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been somewhat of a revolving door, and John Gibbons’ circle of trust in the bullpen really only involves Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez and up until last week, Brett Cecil.
So going with a fairly limited relief corps in high leverage situations, it’s no surprise that Gibbons opted to stick with his starter in David Price, considering he looked stellar through six innings.
The only thing that really surprised me was Gibby’s reluctance to go to the bullpen once things really started to go south for David Price. Gibbons chose to go with Aaron Sanchez and then Aaron Loup (who wasn’t much better and could barely throw strikes), which in hindsight is maybe why Gibbons didn’t want to go to the bullpen in the first place.
Aaron Loup’s appearance likely reinforced John Gibbons’ decision there; Loup walked the first two batters he saw, throwing 13 pitches and only one of them was a strike. To me, that is the much more worrisome aspect, not David Price.
In the postseason, managers tend to have a much quicker hook than they would in the regular season; that’s why you see them often go to the bullpen in the fifth and sixth inning, even when it appears the starting pitcher has been cruising.
In this particular situation, Price was given the benefit of the doubt. But given the lack of reliable middle relief options for the Blue Jays and how much Gibbons his ridden his top relievers, one can’t really fault John Gibbons for sticking with his starter in that situation.
I know a lot of people want to hang the loss in Game 2 on either John Gibbons, David Price or even a combination of those two guys. But there were a lot of mitigating factors which led to that loss.
For example: some sloppy defense by the Blue Jays and a plucky Royals lineup which managed to find pretty much just about every hole in the Blue Jays’ defensive alignment.
It also didn’t help that the Blue Jays’ starting lineup has only produced three runs over the course of the first two games of this series. During the regular season, when the Blue Jays scored three or less runs, their record was 8-48.
With the lack of offense, David Price pretty much had to be perfect; which he was until the seventh inning. And then when it all unraveled in the seventh, the margin for error for the Blue Jays was next to nil.
The Blue Jays let Game 2 of the ALCS slip through their fingers, but the way everyone else on the roster has performed in Games 1 and 2, they really didn’t have much of a chance once the damage was done. Let’s hope they have short memories and can start anew in Game 3 on Monday.
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