The Toronto Blue Jays loss in Game 2 of the ALCS came down to one thing: adjustments.
Everything looked to be going well for the Toronto Blue Jays. Up 3-0 in the seventh inning with David Price in complete control of the game, the Jays were nine outs away from heading back to Toronto with the series tied at one.
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Then it all started to go down hill.
By now, you’re well aware of Ryan Goins gaffe in right field. Even though he’s taken responsibility for the error, it’s a play that can’t happen during the ALCS. The untouched pop-up in shallow right field isn’t why the Blue Jays lost, though.
No, this game came down to one thing — adjustments.
While the pop-up will receive most of the attention, the Royals’ adjustments paint a more vivid picture as to why they won Game 2.
At the plate, the Royals were continuously trying to adjust their approach. When a pitcher retires 18 in-a-row like Price did, adjustments are given. The Royals, however, capitalized on those adjustments.
After struggling to deal with Price’s full repertoire of pitches, the Royals essentially cut down their selection in the seventh inning, where they swung at predominately change-ups and fastballs, and avoided his cutter and curveball.
Sep 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher David Price (14) gets ready to throw a ball during the first inning in a game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
For the most part, Price is a fastball/change-up pitcher. But when at his best, he commands a third pitch, usually his cutter, at will. Prior to the seventh inning on Saturday, Price got six of the 18 hitters he faced out with his cutter (5) or curveball (1). While the number might not seem large, the variance in which he used his cutter and curveball helped immensely.
According to MLB.com’s play-by-play log, Price threw 11 cutters and 10 curves through the first six innings. 21 total pitches might not seem like a lot, but when you’re predominately a fastball/change-up pitcher, the variance not only helps to keep hitters off-balance, it also helps with your fastball command.
In the seventh inning, the first three hitters all reached base on a fastball or change-up. Lorenzo Cain did see two cutters during his at bat, but he ripped a fastball opposite field on a 1-1 count. Although Morales did reach base on a fielder’s choice, the pitch he grounded to the shortstop was a cutter.
After that, though, aside from Salvador Perez, who Price struck out on a cutter, he threw nothing but fastballs and change-ups for the rest of the inning.
I’m not questioning Russell Martin‘s pitch selection, but it is interesting how him and Price got away from mixing things up once the game got tight in the seventh inning. Ironically enough, the two hitters Price got out, Morales and Perez, were both with his cutter.
Oct 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates after scoring a run during the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game two of the ALCS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
While it’s extremely difficult to prove a team was tipping pitches, Zaun did create a compelling case. We did see Sal Perez run through multiple sets of signs in Game 1, so why the Blue Jays didn’t is a mystery. But again, unless somebody brings up the idea of tipping pitches, it’s extremely difficult to pick up on it during the heat of any game, let alone Game 2 of the ALCS.
Aside from adjusting to Price’s repertoire, the Royals were, well, your typical Royals.
They excelled in situational hitting scenarios. They were aggressive on the base paths, which was evident when Eric Hosmer stole second, and then scored from second on a single to right-field. Their bullpen was effective. Their defence was good.
It was nothing out of the ordinary.
As for the Blue Jays, we can sit here all day and debate about how Price approached hitters in the seventh inning. Bottom line, if he’s the $200 million pitcher we — and the Blue Jays — envision him to be, he has to get an out.
Even more concerning than Price, though, is the number of men left on base by the Jays. Through two games this series they have left 18 men on base, nine in Game 1, and nine again in Game 2.
So before people go and blame Price and Goins, or even write this team off as “finished”, keep in mind that there has been a number of opportunities for the Blue Jays. They just haven’t been able to capitalize.
These problems are fixable but when they linger, they can be lethal.
Luckily for the Jays, they’ve been able to get these issues under control for quite a while now, as the team has not lost three games in a row since July 8-10. Oddly enough, that three-game losing streak ended with a win against the Royals.
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