MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Price move reflects Toronto's sense of urgency

Gibbons takes no chances with Blue Jays' season on the line

Price move reflects Toronto's sense of urgency

ARLINGTON -- His Blue Jays had a 7-1 lead on the Rangers in the third inning. Safe enough, right? Oh, child, please.

"You know what, things happen fast," Toronto manager John Gibbons said after Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

So even at 7-1, he was going to manage like it was the last game of the season. If the Blue Jays had lost, it would have been.

Game Date Result
Gm 1 Oct. 8 TEX 5, TOR 3
Gm 2 Oct. 9 TEX 6, TOR 4
Gm 3 Oct. 11 TOR 5, TEX 1
Gm 4 Oct. 12 TOR 8, TEX 4
Gm 5 Oct. 14 TOR 6, TEX 3

Toronto did take care of business Monday afternoon at Globe Life Park by beating the Texas Rangers, 8-4, and forcing the best-of-five ALDS back home to Rogers Centre for a decisive Game 5 on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet).

Shop for official Blue Jays postseason gear

So strip everything else away, and Gibbons got exactly what he wanted out of it. He raised some eyebrows along the way, but a win is a win is a win.

"One thing I've learned over the years: Sometimes the best way to win games is don't let the team get back into it," Gibbons said.

Even when it was 7-1, Gibbons kept peeking at the Texas lineup card and seeing those names: Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, etc. Besides that, he'd watched a bit of that other ALDS game on Monday in which the Astros let a late four-run leap slip away during a 9-6 loss to the Royals.

If the world saw the Blue Jays in a 7-1 cakewalk, Gibbons believed it still might come down to scratching and clawing for every out. That was the mindset he brought to Texas after Toronto dug itself an 0-2 series deficit at home.

Price on the Blue Jays' win

On Sunday, he had his Game 1 starter -- and presumed Game 5 pitcher -- David Price warming up at several points. When his Game 4 starter, R.A. Dickey, got into early trouble, Price was up again.

By then, Gibbons had already made two decisions. One was that he had to use Price after warming him up so many times in a two-day stretch. The other was that right-hander Marcus Stroman would start Game 5.

Gibbons managed the game as if he had no margin for error, and so with the Blue Jays leading, 7-1, with two outs in the fifth inning and Choo coming up, Gibbons summoned Price from the bullpen.

• Price delivers three innings out of bullpen

Price earns the win in relief

It was jarring to see a staff ace strolling in to protect a six-run lead. Besides that, Dickey was rolling, having retired six of seven. He'd thrown a mere 78 pitches and the 40-year-old was one out away from qualifying for a win in his postseason debut. If Gibbons had pulled Dickey after 4 2/3 innings to allow Price to face some of the Texas left-handed hitters -- Choo, Fielder, Mitch Moreland, Hamilton -- and have something akin to a bullpen session, fewer eyebrows would have been raised. To allow him to pitch three innings and throw 50 pitches will be viewed as excessive by some.

Later, Gibbons said he was focused on Choo, who had baseball's highest on-base percentage (.500) after Sept. 1. Gibbons kept seeing Choo getting on base in front of the sluggers, and things unraveling quickly. Price got Choo on a fly ball to center to end the fifth inning with one pitch.

"Maybe we eliminate them from getting Choo on, and then you've got Fielder and all those guys," Gibbons said. "There's a method to the madness. I'm sure it's not real popular."

Dickey on Gibbons going to Price

Again, Gibbons was focused only on winning on Monday. But by taking this road to victory, the Blue Jays could be in a precarious position for Game 5. If Stroman gets in early trouble, Gibbons may not have Price.

For his part, Price said he'd be available in Game 5, but using him 48 hours after three stressful innings -- and 50 pitches -- seems unlikely. All that said, Price and Dickey said all the right things.

"There's always somebody that cares more about what they do than what the team does," Price said, "and that's not the case here, and we have our fair share of big-name guys. Just win today and worry about tomorrow later. That's what we did today, and we did it well."

Dickey delivers in first postseason appearance

Dickey had been in professional baseball for 19 years without a postseason appearance, so it was going to be difficult to spoil this day. When it ended, he took members of his family back on the field for photos.

"I'm sure Gibby and I will talk about it," Dickey said, "but in this moment, I'm not going to let it steal away the joy that I have about getting to go back to Toronto, when there's a lot of teams that would have folded."

Elsewhere in the Toronto clubhouse, players had their manager's back.

"You try to get outs however you can get them in the postseason," catcher Russell Martin said. "No lead is big enough."

The Blue Jays had come to Globe Life Park a loss away from elimination. They had a team meeting. They had some laughs, too. They kept thinking that after playing so well down the stretch (43-18) that it couldn't all end so quickly.

"We're just not ready for that," first baseman Chris Colabello said. "This is the most fun some of us have had in baseball."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.