Pillar confident Blue Jays can bounce back

Centre fielder points to ALDS as proof of Toronto's resilience

Pillar confident Blue Jays can bounce back

KANSAS CITY -- The Blue Jays lived a win-or-go-home existence for the final three games of the American League Division Series. Toronto thrived under the pressure, survived through it and earned a trip to the AL Championship Series against Kansas City.

The Blue Jays are down again -- after a 5-0 loss to the Royals in Game 1 on Friday night -- but the club needs only to look back to a few days ago to calm any concerns. Before Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar said the ALDS comeback against Texas is beneficial for the team's mindset.

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"It's easy to draw back on the experiences from last series," Pillar said, "really having to play with your back against the wall. We understand how important this game is, but you're not going to see guys pressing, putting added pressure on ourselves."

Game Date Matchup
Gm 1 Oct. 16 KC 5, TOR 0
Gm 2 Oct. 17 KC 6, TOR 3
Gm 3 Oct. 19 TOR 11, KC 8
Gm 4 Oct. 20 KC 14, TOR 2
Gm 5 Oct. 21 TOR 7, KC 1
Gm 6 Oct. 23 KC 4, TOR 3

The Blue Jays overcame an 0-2 hole against the Rangers, becoming only the third team in postseason history to emerge victorious after dropping the first two games at home in a best-of-five scenario. Needless to say, falling behind by one game in a best-of-seven situation against the Royals does not feel nearly as daunting.

That said, Toronto does not want to get too used to playing from behind with so much at stake.

"You don't want to keep putting your back against the wall, like we had that first series," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You don't want every series to be that kind of series, because then the odds get you, usually."

While Toronto's powerful offense -- one that led the Majors with 891 runs scored and a plus-221 run differential in the regular season -- was blanked in Game 1 in Kansas City, Pillar felt he saw positives within the lineup's plate appearances. The Blue Jays drew five walks, including two in a 37-pitch sixth inning that knocked Edinson Volquez out of the game, but did not net any runs.

"[We were] hitting the ball hard, first of all," Pillar said. "Secondly, guys [were] taking their walks, not trying to do too much at the plate. ... We had guys on base. And I guess in a postseason game, that's what you're trying to do. We were one hit away from having a big [inning]."

Pillar was also pleased to see slugger Edwin Encarnacion back in the starting lineup on Saturday after exiting Game 1 with a left middle finger ligament sprain.

"Edwin is a big part of our team," Pillar said. "Any time he's in the lineup, we're a better team. And it's something he's dealt with throughout the year. He probably wouldn't be playing if it wasn't a postseason game, but Edwin is extremely passionate and wants to win, and he's going to do whatever it takes to get ready to play."

Having Encarnacion in the mix can help Toronto avoid falling into a deep hole for the second postseason round in a row.

"I'm not going to say it's a position we're comfortable in," Pillar said of playing from behind in a series. "Obviously, we want to go out there and win."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.