By Gregor Chisholm and Jeffrey Flanagan
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays showed once again why they should never be written off in the postseason, as the league's top offense erupted in an 11-8 victory over the Royals in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and Ryan Goins each homered as Toronto cut its deficit in the best-of-seven ALCS series to 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for this afternoon (3 p.m. ET airtime on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time slated for 4 p.m.). It was the third time in Blue Jays history they scored at least 10 runs in a postseason game.
"We desperately needed that breakout," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You look at how the game finished up, those runs really came in handy. It wasn't an easy game, even though we had a big lead."
The Royals' loss snapped their nine-game ALCS winning streak. The record is 10, held by the Orioles, who had three straight 3-0 sweeps in 1969, '70 and '71 and won Game 1 of the '73 ALCS, when it was a best-of-five series. Toronto is the fifth team to face a pair of 2-0 deficits in the same postseason, and two of the previous four came back to win both (1981 Dodgers, National League Division Series, World Series; and the 1985 Royals, ALCS, World Series).
Tulowitzki led the way for the Blue Jays with a 2-for-4 night that included the home run and three RBIs, but he was ejected by home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck as the team warmed up for the top of the eighth for arguing a called third strike the last half-inning.
Goins, whose memorable seventh-inning mishap jump-started Kansas City's game-turning rally in Toronto's Game 2 loss Saturday, redeemed himself with two hits, three RBIs and some slick defense. Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion also had two hits, and every member of the Blue Jays' starting lineup reached base at least once. It was the highest offensive output during the postseason for Toronto, which scored in double digits a franchise-record 26 times this season.
Kansas City's Johnny Cueto had a chance to give his team a commanding lead in the series, but instead he became the first starting pitcher in postseason history to allow eight or more runs while recording six outs or fewer. He pitched a scoreless first inning, but the right-hander surrendered three in the second and then was not able to record an out in the third. Cueto allowed six hits and walked four with two strikeouts in the sixth start of his postseason career.
"The mound in the bullpen was higher than the real one," Cueto said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "And I couldn't get my pitches down. It's no excuse. They just beat me."
Right-hander Marcus Stroman picked up the win for the Blue Jays, even though he wasn't in top form. Stroman surrendered a lot of hard contact early, but he survived one run in the first and another run in the third before Toronto's offense gave him some breathing room. The 24-year-old induced 48 swings, but only three were of the swing-and-miss variety. He was charged with four runs on 11 hits and one walk over 6 1/3 innings before handing things over to the bullpen.
Kansas City rallied for four runs in the ninth inning, but it was too little, too late. Kendrys Morales hit a two-run homer, while Lorenzo Cain added a sacrifice fly and Eric Hosmer had an RBI single. Prior to the ninth, the Royals went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on base.
"It shows you that we never quit," Hosmer said. "But it was just too big a hole. We know our pitchers won't have another game like that, so we're fine. It's 2-1, and we'll come back tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Goins, Blue Jays bounce back: The Blue Jays trailed, 1-0, heading into the bottom of the second inning, but the Royals' lead didn't last long. With runners on the corners and two outs, Kansas City made the curious decision of not holding on Pillar at first base, which allowed him to easily steal second. The move immediately backfired as Goins came through with a single to left field. Instead of scoring one run, Toronto added two, and it wasn't done there. Later in the inning, Donaldson added an RBI single to put the Blue Jays up, 3-1.
The clutch hit by Goins earned him a bit of reprieve, as he took the blame for a dropped popup in Game 2 that helped set up the Royals' game-winning rally. Goins would later add a homer and diving stop to rob Cain of a hit.
"For him to come back out and be huge for us tonight," Tulowitzki said of Goins, "that shows you the character that he has."
Cueto sent to the showers: Cueto was staked to an early lead, but he struggled in the second inning and then completely fell apart in the third. Kansas City's No. 1 starter allowed all five batters he faced in the inning to reach base before he was pulled, much to the delight of the sellout crowd at Rogers Centre, which frequently did the mock chant of "Cue-to, Cue-to" during the game. Kevin Pillar sent Cueto packing with an RBI double to the gap in left-center field, and the Blue Jays went on to send nine batters to the plate and score six runs.
"He couldn't command the ball down," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Cueto. "He was up all night long. Just really struggled with his command. Got his pitch count up and just couldn't make an adjustment." More >
Tulo time: For the second time this postseason, Tulowitzki lifted the Blue Jays with a three-run homer. In Game 3 of the ALDS at Texas, Tulowitzki hit a pivotal three-run shot. This time, Tulowitzki's three-run shot put Toronto up 6-2 in the third inning. According to Statcast™, Tulowitzki's home run was projected to travel 422 feet and left his bat at 103 mph. He also became the first player in franchise history to have a pair of three-run home runs in the same postseason.
"He's still in pain with that shoulder, but you look at it, really, in two must-win games, he's had the big home runs," Gibbons said of Tulowitzki. "Down there in Texas, down 0-2, he hit that big home run to help us win that one down there. And this game right here, back's against the wall, he hits another three-run homer."
Esky magic: Alcides Escobar continues to sizzle for Kansas City. He led off the game with a scorching liner to right that eluded Jose Bautista for a triple, then he scored on a groundout. Escobar then singled and scored in the fifth and singled again in the sixth. He singled once more in the ninth and scored. Escobar now is 7-for-11 in the series (.636), showing how badly he wants to keep the leadoff job. Despite the Game 3 loss, the Royals are 46 games over .500 with Escobar leading off.
"Our guys, we don't give up," Escobar said. "All the time in the dugout, we tell each other, 'Let's go. We can get this.' That's what a good team is."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Donaldson became the fourth player in Blue Jays history to have three home runs in the same postseason when he went deep in the third inning. Candy Maldonado (1992), Joe Carter ('92) and Paul Molitor ('93) all had three, but nobody in franchise history has four in the same postseason.
The six-run third inning by the Blue Jays matched the most in franchise history for a postseason game. Toronto also scored six in one inning during Game 4 of the 1993 World Series against Philadelphia.
Cain singled in the third inning, and thus set a franchise record by hitting in his 12th straight postseason game. That broke the mark set by Amos Otis. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Kansas City, which has lost four of five this season at Rogers Centre, will send out Chris Young for his first start this postseason in Game 4. He last pitched in Game 1 of the ALDS, when he threw four innings and struck out seven batters -- the most by any reliever in franchise history.
Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will get the call for Toronto when the ALCS continues with Game 4 on Tuesday. Dickey made his postseason debut in Game 4 of the ALDS against Texas, and he allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings, falling one out shy of picking up the win.
Gregor Chisholm and Jeffrey Flanagan are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.