Blue Jays need a return to form for bats

Toronto hopes heading back to Rogers Centre will get club going in ALCS

Blue Jays need a return to form for bats

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays were written off in the postseason once already, and anybody who wants to do it a second time might want to think again.

Toronto is currently faced with its second two-game deficit in the postseason. In the American League Division Series, it was the Rangers. Now, it's the relentless Royals, who have a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time at 8 p.m.).

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 first two games of each series were similar, as the Majors' best offense went quiet and put the Blue Jays in an early hole. Toronto's bats eventually broke out with 19 combined runs in Games 3-5 vs. the Rangers in the ALDS, and the club fully intends to have history repeat itself.

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"That's how we win, we've been doing it all year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "In those first couple of games in Texas, they held us in check, and we broke out in the games down there. ... That's who we are. That's how we win, so we need that."

There's a lot of confidence inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse, and it's easy to understand why. Toronto had the best lineup in baseball this year, and it wasn't even close.

The Blue Jays averaged 5.5 runs per game and scored 891 runs, which was 127 more than the second-place Yankees. Most of the attention went to the Major League-leading 232 home runs, but the club also ranked first in doubles (308), walks (570) and OPS (.797).

The problem is that almost all of that production completely disappeared in Kansas City. Toronto was shut out for the sixth time all season in Game 1, and while the numbers were slightly better in Game 2, the end result was three runs.

Gibbons, Pillar on not giving up

Toronto's recipe for success is pretty simple. When the club hits, it typically wins. When it doesn't, the Blue Jays struggle. The tell-tale sign is that Toronto went 85-21 when scoring four runs or more and just 8-48 when scoring three or fewer.

"We've been hitting the ball better those first two games than [the results] we have," outfielder Ben Revere said. "You have to play all nine innings. They're the type of team you can't be relaxed against because they can switch it around in two seconds. Now, it's grind time down [2-0]."

The biggest issue so far has been Toronto's lack of success with runners in scoring position. The Blue Jays led the AL with a .286 average in those situations this year, but it has been a different story during the postseason.

Through seven games, the Blue Jays are hitting .191 (13-for-68) with runners in scoring position. In the two games vs. Kansas City, the numbers have been even worse with a .130 average (3-for-23). Returning to hitter-friendly Rogers Centre should help.

"We thought we hit some balls pretty good that didn't carry," Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar said of playing in Kauffman Stadium. "It was cold, a bit windy. Here, you're not going to deal with the wind, not going to deal with the cold. Historically a good hitter's park to hit in, and more than anything, guys are just comfortable here."

The task won't be easy, but it's certainly possible, especially for a team that features Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Toronto is the 26th team in LCS history to fall behind 2-0 since the advent of the best-of-seven format in 1985. The Cubs became the 27th team when they dropped Game 2 of the National League Championship Series to the Mets, 4-1, on Sunday night.

Three of those teams advanced to the World Series (1985 Royals and Cardinals and 2004 Red Sox), and all three of them, like the Blue Jays and Cubs, lost the first two games on the road before mounting their comeback at home. For all best-of-seven series all-time (including the World Series), the team that has won the first two games has won the series 62 of 75 times. The Blue Jays overcame the odds before, and they can only hope they do it again.

"You never want to go down 0-3," Gibbons said. "The odds, the history of the game prove that. But to be honest with you, we feel pretty good. ... We've got a great team and that's just the fact."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. AJ Cassavell contributed reporting. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.