Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and the slugging Toronto Blue Jays were eager to return to their homer dome after dropping the first two games of the American League Championship Series in Kansas City.
They showed everyone why.
The Blue Jays came out swinging and their rowdy fans were singing from the start, Tulowitzki and Donaldson connecting in a six-run third inning and Toronto roughing up Johnny Cueto and the Royals for an 11-8 victory that cut Kansas City’s series lead to 2-1.
“That’s really what we’re all about,” Manager John Gibbons said. “We desperately needed that breakout.”
Veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will try to get the Blue Jays even in the best-of-seven series Tuesday. He faces Kansas City’s 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young in Game 4.
Ryan Goins also homered and had a two-run single a game after his misplayed pop fly enabled Kansas City’s winning rally Sunday.
The resilient Royals tried to come back this time too, scoring four runs in the ninth before Roberto Osuna closed it out.
Even with a big lead, Tulowitzki lost his cool. He was given a rare playoff ejection for arguing balls and strikes before the top of the eighth.
Tulowitzki, who struck out looking in the seventh, was restrained by teammates as he argued with plate umpire John Hirschbeck when the Blue Jays took the field for the eighth. Gibbons and bench coach DeMarlo Hale also came out to break it up.
Despite being outhit by the pesky Royals, 15-11, Toronto pounced on Kansas City’s pitching in the first ALCS game in Toronto since 1993. The Blue Jays had never scored more runs in a home playoff game – this after scoring only three in two games at Kansas City.
Kansas City scored four times against starter Marcus Stroman and added four in the ninth, capped by Kendrys Morales’ two-run homer against Osuna.
Seemingly not distracted by the contentious federal elections that were being held in Canada on Monday, 49,751 fans serenaded Cueto with a sing-song “Cueto-Cueto!” chant from the game’s first pitch and never quieted down.
The Royals took a quick lead when Alcides Escobar led off the game with a sinking liner that went under right fielder Jose Bautista’s glove for a triple against Stroman. Ben Zobrist drove in Escobar with a grounder, but that was the only advantage Kanas City would hold as its nine-game ALCS winning streak was ended. The string dated to the 1985 series against Toronto.
Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar quashed that rally with a fantastic, over-the-shoulder catch that sent him crashing into the wall.
After an easy first, Cueto appeared flustered by the crowd. Eleven of the remaining 13 batters he faced reached base and at one point in the third inning he threw his hands up in frustration after gesturing for a new cycle of signs from catcher Salvador Perez.
Goins singled in two runs in the second after Tulowitzki singled with one out and Russell Martin was hit by a pitch that knocked off his left elbow guard. Goins pulled into second on the throw home and shouted and pumped his arms.
David Price, the losing pitcher in Game 2, led the cheering from the top step of the dugout.
When Goins scored on Donaldson’s hit, he was greeted first by the enthusiastic Stroman.
“He’s been carrying that load around a little bit,” Gibbons said of Goins. “But he stepped up, really got us on the board with that great at-bat, picking up those two runs, base hit to left and then, of course, the home run.”
Nursing a sore shoulder that sidelined him in September, Tulowitzki entered in a 4-for-29 postseason slump. But he connected for the Blue Jays’ first ALCS homer after Edwin Encarnacion singled and Chris Colabello walked to start the third.
“Battling with the shoulder at times, but trying to gut it out,” Tulowitzki said.
Cueto was coming off a dominant eight-inning performance in Game 5 of the ALDS, retiring his last 19 batters. But after giving up Pillar’s RBI double in the third, he was pulled.