What was that ancient Alka-Seltzer commercial? Plop-plop, fizz-fizz? It took only one plop for David Price’s masterwork in the making to go fizz-fizz Saturday afternoon. And when it came time to be accountable for the plop, Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins had it knocked.
None of which is going to take the sting out of Saturday afternoon’s American League Championship Series-continuing 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals. And while rookie Goins earned himself a truckload of good will for standing up to the leadoff miscue that opened the only door the Royals would need all day, it still hurts even if there are games to play yet.
Because this was one the Jays had banked. Finally, it looked like Price was going to shake away his own postseason miseries as he took a one-hitter to the bottom of the seventh. Finally, the Royals looked like they couldn’t solve Price if Sherlock Holmes had been managing them. That 3-0 lead the Jays pried out of Royals starter Yordano Ventura might as well have been 30-0, right?
When Ben Zobrist swung on Price’s first pitch of the bottom of the seventh and popped one toward short right field, Goins—who’d driven in the first Jays run of the day—ambled out and right fielder Jose Bautista ambled in. For a moment it looked like Goins waved Bautista and anyone else off. This one was his, dammit!
And then it wasn’t.
Because then Goins inexplicably backed off the play. And Bautista inexplicably backed off the play. The ball hit the ground with a thump. Zobrist was aboard with a huge gift of a leadoff hit.
“I stuck my glove up, I thought I heard something but it wasn’t, so I didn’t go after it aggressive enough,” Goins told reporters after the game. “It dropped and that was it. It led to a big rally by them. I just thought I heard ‘I got it,’ but it was nothing. I should have gone at it more aggressively, put my glove up like I always do, that means I got it and I just didn’t make the play.”
The only problem is that these Royals have a nasty habit of never saying no to gifts big or small.
Lorenzo Cain’s thank you was a single to right moving Zobrist to second. Eric Hosmer’s thank you was a single up the pipe driving home Zobrist and moving Cain to third. Kendrys Morales’s thank you was an RBI groundout sending Hosmer to second with Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki playing back far enough to have nothing but a play at first. Mike Moustakas’s thank you was a rip into right for an RBI single on which he took second on a futile throw home.
Credit Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz with a major assist. Knowing Morales isn’t exactly the swiftest horse in the Royal stable, he sent Hosmer on Price’s 0-1 changeup and took the double play option right out of the Jays’ hands.
And after Price fought Salvador Perez to a hard-earned called punchout, Alex Gordon’s thank you was a line drive double through the gap in right center to bust the three-all tie and Alex Rios’s followup thank you was a shot off the mound—and off Price’s relief Aaron Sanchez—and into center for a fifth Royals run.
The Blue Jays, favoured heavily to get to and win the World Series as the ALCS opened, get to bring the set to Toronto in the hole 0-2.
Just like that a day on which they should have felt wonderful turned into a day to feel miserable. Just like that, it no longer mattered that they pried three runs out of Ventura, that Price kept the Royals quiet even with only one run to work with until the top of the sixth.
Just like that, Josh Donaldson beating out a grounder to shortstop and still-ailing Edwin Encarnacion parking a single in left to score him meant nothing. Just like that, Troy Tulowitzki delivering in the clutch at last, doubleing home Bautista after Chris Colabello’s swinging strike out, meant less.
The Jays were already dealing with the Royals’ vaunted bullpen when Goins and Bautista pulled off that catchable pop. Luke Hochevar got the final two outs of the Jays’ sixth without breaking a sweat and Danny Duffy turned them to one side in the top of the seventh with a ground out, a fly out, and strikeout, almost as if Duffy had plotted this one all year long.
But after the plop and the fizz they had Kelvim Herrera and Wade Davis to face. Herrera shook off a one-out double in the eighth, Davis shook off an inning-opening single and walk to strike out Ben Revere and Donaldson before getting Bautista to fly out to right, and that was that.
Somehow, the Royals helped themselves to another insurance run in the eighth with Moustakas rapping an RBI single. By then it didn’t matter, any more than it mattered how Price had shredded the Royals for six innings, including striking out the side in the sixth and a string of first pitch strikes to twelve of fourteen hitters, with no hint of anything close to a prospective implosion coming.
“Absolutely not,” Price said firmly, when asked after the game whether the plop punctured him mentally.
“One small mistake opened the door for them,” Bautista said after the game, barely able to keep his anger hidden. “We’re a great team, we’re playing good baseball, and today was just one of those days where a small mistake can open the door for another team. So we’re not going to overanalyze it.”
“It won’t be easy, no doubt about that,” said Jays manager John Gibbons about returning from an 0-2 deficit. “But you get one win out of the way it can turn things around in a hurry.” Considering the Jays scored exactly three runs in the first two games, both in Game Two, it may not be as easy as Gibbons thinks to turn things around, in a hurry or otherwise.