TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' resiliency is about to be tested more than it ever has before. They're down, but they're not out. At least not yet.
Toronto was pushed to the brink of elimination with a 4-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday night at Rogers Centre. The positives of being down 3-0 are nonexistent, but if there is one small glimmer of hope, it can be found in the fact that the Blue Jays have been down a somewhat similar road before.
In last year's AL Division Series vs. Texas, Toronto lost the first two games and was written off by most. All that team did was rally to win the next three games and advance to the ALCS vs. Kansas City. But it's one thing to do that in a best-of-five series and it's another thing to do it in a best-of-seven scenario. The task is daunting, but it has to start somewhere.
"It's that simple, win or go home," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said. "It's easy to say that today was a must-win, but the reality is we have tomorrow. And if we don't win then, we'll be packing our bags at this time tomorrow. We just have to play better. We have to figure out a way to get to the starting pitcher early. Get a lead and play from ahead for once."
The odds are obviously not in Toronto's favor. There have been 35 teams who fell behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series, and only one came back to win. In the National Hockey League, it has happened four times out of 182 tries (2.2 percent). It has yet to be done in the National Basketball Association.
So there are precedents, even if they're also very hard to find. The 2004 Red Sox remain the lone MLB example after rallying from three games behind to defeat the Yankees in the ALCS. That Red Sox team went on to win the World Series -- and their manager happened to be current Cleveland skipper Terry Francona. Everybody else might consider the Blue Jays done, but the man running the opposing dugout knows better than that.
It's not like the Blue Jays haven't beaten the odds before. A year ago, Toronto became just the ninth team in MLB history to rally from two games down to take a best-of-five series. The percentages are even less favorable this time around, but it's not like the club is going to give up hope.
"We've won four games in a row plenty of times," Blue Jays reliever Jason Grilli said. "I'm sure the guys will set the bar and draw up comparisons and do some analogy on the TV screen and figure out what it does, but we have to win one tomorrow before we win any of the other ones. Tomorrow is big for us and we have [Aaron Sanchez] on the mound. I like that we're going to go out fighting like we always have."
Grilli is right in the sense that Toronto has done this before. The Blue Jays had eight winning streaks this season that stretched at least four games. The most recent was when Toronto won the final two games of the regular season in Boston and then proceeded to defeat Baltimore in the AL Wild Card Game before sweeping Texas in the ALDS.
When Toronto took the final two games from Cleveland during a series at Rogers Centre in July, it marked the start of what turned into a season-high seven-game winning streak. The task is doable, but whether the Blue Jays can accomplish it under the spotlight of October baseball with a berth in the World Series on the line remains to be seen.
As clichéd as it may sound, all of that big-picture stuff can wait. The task at hand is a little more simple than that. Toronto has to win Game 4 before anything else can even be considered.
"We don't have any choice," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. "It's either you win or you go home, and I don't want to go home. I don't think anybody in this clubhouse wants to go home."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.