By Gregor Chisholm and Jeffrey Flanagan
TORONTO -- The American League Championship Series is headed back to Kansas City after the Blue Jays staved off elimination and forced Game 6 with yet another victory when their backs were against the wall.
Right-hander Marco Estrada faced one batter over the minimum through the first seven innings and later departed in the eighth en route to Toronto's 7-1 victory over Kansas City in Game 5 on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. Chris Colabello homered and Troy Tulowitzki also provided a spark with a three-run double.
The Blue Jays climbed back in the series, but the Royals still hold a 3-2 advantage going into Friday's Game 6 (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX Sports 1/Sportsnet, 8 p.m. game time). Toronto became the 41st team in 80 attempts to force a Game 6 after trailing 3-1 in a best-of-seven postseason series. Twelve of those teams went on to win the series despite the early deficit.
"I think that's a recipe for winning -- good pitching and timely hitting," Tulowitzki said. "That's what we did today. Obviously you try to carry this over to Kansas City. It's not going to be easy. They have home-field advantage. Our backs are going to be against the wall.
"But you look at it, you've got to win two games in the grand scheme of things. It's possible. And that's how we're looking at it -- win the next game. Get to Game 7, and anything can happen."
The last time Estrada took the mound in an elimination game, the Blue Jays were trailing the Rangers 0-2 in the best-of-five AL Division Series. He was one of the main reasons Toronto stayed alive, and that was the case again on Wednesday. Estrada didn't allow a run until the eighth, and he surrendered three hits and one walk while striking out five.
Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez was almost as effective early on. His lone early mistake came in the second inning when Colabello hit a shot to left-center field to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. Volquez cruised after that until the sixth inning, when he walked three batters and hit another to begin the frame. He was pulled with the bases loaded, and that's when Tulowitzki came through with the three-run double to left-center field.
Salvador Perez spoiled Estrada's bid for a shutout with an opposite-field home run in the top of the eighth. It was the second hit of the day for Kansas City and Perez's fourth homer of the postseason. Alex Gordon and Alex Rios followed with singles later in the inning, but the Royals could not get any closer.
"Again, we knew it was going to be a tough series," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But after winning the first two games, in reality your goal is to come to Toronto, in kind of a foreign environment, a hostile environment, and at least win one. Then you get to go home and win one there and the series is over.
"Now we're going back to a place where we're completely comfortable. That's why home-field was so important to us. We really wanted to play four games in our park. And we're taking a 3-2 lead back to where we are comfortable and back to our home fans that support us and are fantastic."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tulo Time: The last time the Blue Jays were facing elimination and a two-game deficit, it was Tulowitzki who got them back into the series with one swing. In the ALDS against Texas, it was a three-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 3, and this time it was a bases-loaded double in the sixth that scored three runs. Toronto had a 2-0 lead when Tulowitzki stepped to the plate against reliever Kelvin Herrera, and Tulowitzki crushed his double to left-center field. The Blue Jays' shortstop has 11 RBIs this postseason, which is the second most in franchise history (Paul Molitor had 13 in 1993).
"You look back, we've been talking about Tulo, his big home runs, and really [his performance in] last-ditch-game type games, then [it's] the same thing tonight, the bases-clearing double," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Volquez's sixth inning: Volquez was phenomenal through five innings, giving up just two infield hits and Colabello's homer on an 0-2 changeup. The trouble began in the sixth when he walked Ben Revere despite having thought he had thrown a couple of strikes that were called balls by home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna. After a hit batter, Volquez worked the count full to Jose Bautista and again thought he had a strikeout, but a 3-2 curve near the outside corner was called ball four. Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and second baseman Ben Zobrist jumped and threw their arms up in protest. Volquez again didn't seem to get the corner on a 3-2 pitch to Edwin Encarnacion -- Escobar seemed furious after that call and Yost had a long discussion with Iassogna after he brought in Herrera.
"It was a strike," Escobar said of the pitch to Bautista. "A strike's a strike, a ball's a ball. That was a strike."
The 4-6-3: Estrada cruised throughout most of the game and Kansas City didn't even have a baserunner until the top of the fourth inning, when Escobar led off with a single. That had the potential to cause some issues for Toronto, but Estrada quickly erased Escobar from the basepaths when he induced a double play off the bat of Zobrist. It was the first double play turned by the Blue Jays since Game 1.
"The first game, I couldn't locate that down-and-away pitch," Estrada said. "Today, I threw a lot of good ones. But other than that, you know, changeup and curveball were there, threw some good cutters. But the key was for sure being able to locate that fastball."
Colabello crushes it: Colabello gave the Blue Jays the lead with his solo shot in the second inning. According to Statcast™, Colabello's second blast of the postseason was projected to travel 410 feet and the ball left his bat at 108 mph. Even more impressive was that the home run came on an 0-2 pitch from Volquez.
"He kind of had some upshoot on his fastball today," Colabello said of Volquez. "It wasn't close to the sink he normally does. … Having a little bit of a background with a guy helps, I think. I knew the changeup was probably the pitch he was trying to get guys out with. I certainly didn't hunt it, but I had it in the back of my mind. He got more plate than I think he wanted to and I was able to put a good swing on it."
"We don't need to change anything. We have to focus on execution. The first time around, we didn't execute. This time around, we've got it." -- Bautista
"I'm going to have to call him my daddy. He's got my number." -- Volquez, on Colabello, who has homered off him in the World Baseball Classic, regular season and postseason
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Bautista's single in the fourth inning extended his on-base streak in the postseason to 10 games. That's the longest streak to start a postseason career since Yoenis Cespedes (10 games, 2012-13) and Brian McCann (11 games, 2005-13).
Estrada's 6 2/3 innings of facing the minimum to start the game was the longest stretch by an AL pitcher in a postseason game since the Yankees' Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals:Yordano Ventura will take the hill for Kansas City in Game 6. Ventura was OK in Game 2, holding Toronto to three runs in 5 1/3 innings while striking out six.
Blue Jays:David Price is still searching for his first career victory as a starter in the postseason. Toronto's ace does have two wins in relief, but he's 0-7 in seven starts. Price seemed to have the monkey off his back in Game 2 with six scoreless innings, but his outing fell apart in a five-run seventh.