ALDS Recap: Blue Jays, Royals Advance

Toronto Blue Jays def. Texas Rangers, 3-2
Game 1: Texas 5, Toronto 3
Game 2: Texas 6, Toronto 4, 14 innings
Game 3: Toronto 5, Texas 1
Game 4: Toronto 8, Texas 4
Game 5: Toronto 6, Texas 3

Starting Point:  The Blue Jays .171 average in Games 1-2
The Blue Jays entered the playoffs as World Series favorites, and were picked on this blog to sweep the Rangers.  However, a team that had been such an offensive juggernaut all season struggled offensively in their first two games at home.  The bottom third of the Texas order led to a 5-3 Game 1 win, as the Blue Jays were held to six hits.  In Game 2, the two-through-five hitters in the Blue Jays order were a combined 2-for-22, as the Blue Jays were held scoreless for the final nine innings of a 14 inning marathon, as Texas won 6-4.

Turning Point:  The Blue Jays’ .309 average in Games 3-4
Facing elimination in Game 3, the Blue Jays took a 5-0 lead through six innings, with the big blow coming in the form of a three-run homer by Troy Tulowitzki in the sixth, as the Blue Jays won 5-1.  In Game 4, early homers by Josh Donaldson, Chris Collabello, and Kevin Pillar helped the Blue Jays to a 7-0 lead, and they cruised to an 8-4 win, using ace David Price in relief to ensure a Game 5.

Ending Point:  Three 7th inning errors by the Rangers in Game 5
Game 5 was a crazy back-and-forth game, with too many twists and turns for me to describe in a paragraph (although you can read a recap here).  After a 2-2 tie through six innings, and a 3-2 Texas lead after a controversial run in the top of the seventh, the Rangers defense began the bottom of the seventh with three straight errors, with two of them by shortstop Elvis Andrus, becoming the first team in history to make three errors in an inning in a winner-take-all postseason game.  An additional mistake, although it wasn’t an error, was made by second baseman Rougned Odor, as he misjudged a floater off Donaldson’s bat, which tied the game.  The next batter, Jose Bautista, hit a long three-run homer to give the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead they would not relinquish.  The homer got a lot of attention in the game’s aftermath, and rightfully so, but Bautista would have never been at the plate in the inning if the Rangers had made the defensive plays they normally make.  With the three straight wins, the Blue Jays became the third team to win a Division Series after losing the first two games at home (2001 Yankees, 2012 Giants).

Kansas City Royals def. Houston Astros, 3-2
Game 1: Houston 5, Kansas City 2
Game 2: Kansas City 5, Houston 4
Game 3: Houston 4, Kansas City 2
Game 4: Kansas City 9, Houston 6
Game 5: Kansas City 7, Houston 2

Starting Point:  The Astros’ 2-1 series lead
Houston won the opener, despite two homers by Kansas City’s Kendrys Morales, on the strength of an early 3-0 lead, and two late solo homers by George Springer and Colby Rasmus to seal a 5-2 win.  Early in Game 2, Rasmus had an RBI double and a homer, and Springer had an RBI single, leading the Astros to a 4-1 lead.  The Royals fought back with small ball, scoring runs on a double play, an Eric Hosmer RBI single, a Salvador Perez RBI walk, and a Ben Zobrist RBI single to win 5-4.  In Game 3, Kansas City led early after a Lorenzo Cain solo homer, but Houston took a 2-1 lead on a Jason Castro 2-RBI single, extending the lead on an RBI single by Carlos Gomez and a solo homer by Chris Carter, enough for probable Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel to win 4-2, giving the Astros a 2-1 series lead.

Turning Point:  The Royals’ epic Game 4 comeback
Although a Perez homer gave the Royals an early 2-0 lead in Game 4, and a Gomez solo shot cut the gap to 2-1, Carlos Correa practically single-handedly led the Astros to the brink of advancing, with homers in the third and seventh, and an RBI double in the fifth, totaling four RBI.  Rasmus’s third homer of the series gave Houston a 6-2 lead with six outs to get to advance, but the Royals had other plans.  After consecutive singles by Alex Rios, Alcides Escobar, Zobrist, Cain, and Hosmer, then a fielder’s choice by Morales, suddenly the game was tied, 6-6.  An Alex Gordon groundout later in the inning scored Hosmer, and the Royals led 7-6 in front of a stunned Houston crowd, which had been ready to celebrate.  A two-run homer by Hosmer in the ninth increased the lead to 9-6, and the Royals had forced a winner-take-all Game 5 at home.

Ending Point:  Kendrys Morales’ dagger in Game 5
Luis Valbuena hit a two-run homer in the second inning of the deciding game, giving Houston a 2-0 lead, but from that point it was all Royals.  Johnny Cueto allowed just two baserunners–Valbuena and Evan Gattis, who scored on Valbuena’s homer–all game, in eight innings of work.  Hosmer’s RBI single cut the Royals’ gap to 2-1 in the fourth, and Rios’ 2-RBI double gave the Royals a 3-2 lead, before Rios scored on a sacrifice fly by Zobrist, making it 4-2.  That score left the Astros within reach, however, in the eighth inning.  With Escobar and Rios on the base paths in the bottom of the eighth, Morales gave Houston the dagger with a three-run homer, giving the Royals a 7-2 lead.  The Astros led in all five games, but the Royals came back to win three of the five to win the series and advance to the ALCS.

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