MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

'Fight's not over' for battle-tested Blue Jays

Toronto has had backs against wall before and rallied

'Fight's not over' for battle-tested Blue Jays

TORONTO -- They're a tough, resilient team. The Blue Jays have proven that time and again in this magical season. Besides that, one lousy game is one lousy game. Baseball players learn to turn the page quickly.

That's what the Blue Jays will be attempting to do after a 14-2 loss to the Royals in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday. Kansas City leads the best-of-seven series, 3-1, and can close it out in Game 5 on Wednesday (3 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1 and Sportsnet, 4 p.m. game time) at Rogers Centre.

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Or not.

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

"We're down in the cards, but the fight's not over," Toronto catcher Russell Martin said.

The Blue Jays are knee-deep in dealing with this kind of thing. That's part of what has given this season such a special feel.

To review:

• The Blue Jays were seven games below .500 on June 2 (23-30).

• Toronto was eight games out of first place in the AL East on July 28 (and won the division by six games).

• The Blue Jays needed 103 games to get above .500 for good.

• And Toronto began a best-of-five AL Division Series with two losses at home against Texas.

In going 43-18 down the stretch and then in winning three straight elimination games against the Rangers, the Blue Jays have shown they're made of the right stuff.

Postseason games have a unique feel. Each game has its own heartbeat. Momentum is a myth. In a quiet clubhouse -- not a stunned clubhouse, but a quiet clubhouse -- Toronto prepared to go back to work.

"We always take it one game at a time," Martin said. "Now it's win or go home, and I don't feel like going home yet."

Gibbons on Game 4 loss

This latest defeat was over almost before it began. Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey trailed by four runs after six batters, and was gone after 12

Alcides Escobar singled. Ben Zobrist homered. Lorenzo Cain walked. Eric Hosmer singled. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided before the second inning was over that he would try not to let the game get out of hand.

"You play this game long enough, you're going to have outings like that," Dickey said. "It hurts a little bit worse because it was on this stage. You've got to deal with that. We're all grown men here."

Kansas City's lead was 5-2 after six innings, but then it unraveled quickly with the Royals scoring four runs in the seventh, three in the eighth and two in the ninth. By then, Gibbons was looking ahead to Game 5. He began removing some of his starters, and in a final acknowledgment of the reality of the situation, summoned infielder Cliff Pennington, who got the final out and became the first position player to pitch in a postseason game.

Statcast: Pennington on the hill

Now about turning the page …

"It definitely makes the task at hand more difficult, but we're all professionals here," Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "We went out there and tried to grind it out as much as we could and fell short today. I wouldn't say we're angry. We know what we have to do They played really well and pretty much dominated all facets of the game today."

The Blue Jays rode baseball's best offense and a solid bullpen down the stretch. Their rotation was always something of a question. In four ALCS games, Toronto's starters have a 7.20 ERA. Kansas City's game is getting a lead and turning games over to baseball's best bullpen.

That's how the series has played out, with the Royals outscoring the Blue Jays, 21-1, in the final three innings of the four games. Again, though, Game 4, for all its ugliness, was one defeat. If Toronto wins Game 5, it will force the series back to Kansas City, and who knows what happens then? It's not how the Blue Jays had it mapped out, but starting 0-2 against the Rangers wasn't, either.

"There's no doubt it's a big challenge," Gibbons said. "It's a do-or-die game for us. But they do it all year. I think these guys will let this one go and they'll show up to play [Wednesday]. The key is get a good outing out of [Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada]. I know these guys will be ready."

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.