TORONTO -- Troy Tulowitzki is playing through pain, trying to do as much as he can, and anything he can, to help the Blue Jays keep this magical October going.
In a critical 11-8 victory on Monday night against the Royals, a win that cut Kansas City's lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, Tulowitzki found his swing, delivered big and exited to chants of his name under unexpected circumstances. An ejection for arguing a third-strike sent the veteran shortstop to the clubhouse after the seventh inning.
Toronto did not want to focus on Tulo's tossing. His offensive performance was more important.
"More than anything," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said, "you just feel good for that guy."
As part of Toronto's 11-run, 11-hit, three-homer onslaught that showed it felt right at home back inside a raucous and roaring Rogers Centre, Tulowitzki shook off his playoff woes with a pair of hits, including a three-run home run in the Blue Jays' six-run third. He also singled and scored a run in the second, helping Toronto chase Royals righty Johnny Cueto early. The Blue Jays will get a chance to even the series in Game 4 today (3 p.m. ET airtime on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, with game time slated for 4 p.m.).
Heading into Monday's outburst, Tulowitzki was hitting .138 (4-for-29) with 10 strikeouts this postseason, while playing through lingering discomfort from the injury he sustained to his left shoulder blade on Sept. 12. Tulowitzki admits he is still hurting, but not enough to sit out these games.
"I'm battling with the shoulder at times and trying to gut it out and give everything I have," Tulowitzki said. "And tonight it was enough to help us get a win."
His teammates know it, too, and admire how he has fought for a shot at the World Series.
"We all know he's playing hurt," Pillar said. "He's been struggling a little bit. For him to get that big hit, it's a big confidence boost not only for him, but for our team."
With Toronto holding a 10-4 lead in the seventh inning, Tulowitzki struck out looking on a borderline fastball from Kansas City's Kris Medlen. Following the frame, in which Russell Martin was called out on strikes on another close call, Tulowitzki exchanged words from near his position in the infield with home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck.
Hirschbeck wasted little time in tossing Tulowitzki, and the angered shortstop needed to be held back by Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale before exiting the field.
"I think it was obvious I didn't agree with the called third strike," Tulowitzki said. "And there were other pitches that were questionable. I'm walking out to the field and he's looking at me. And I told him that wasn't a strike."
Replays appeared to show Hirschbeck yelling, "Think," to Tulowitzki before turning to discuss the situation with Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. When the fans realized the shortstop had been ejected, Rogers Centre unleashed a chorus of boos before clapping and chanting, "Tu-lo!"
After the win, Tulowitzki added that, "[Hirschbeck] has been an umpire for a long time. He's a good one at that."
Gibbons echoed that sentiment.
"There's a lot of high tension in this game," Gibbons said. "John Hirschbeck is one of the best in the business. He's been at it forever. But, that's the way it goes sometimes."
More important was the fact that Tulowitzki warmed up at the plate before getting heated on the field.
"It's been a battle for him," Gibbons said. "He hasn't been getting a lot of hits, but when he has lately, they've been big, big hits."