TORONTO — Marco Estrada came up with a superb start in the most important outing of his career, stopping the Royals’ hit parade and helping the Toronto Blue Jays send the American League Championship Series back to Kansas City.
Estrada pitched one-hit ball into the eighth inning, giving Toronto’s tattered bullpen a rest, and the Blue Jays beat the Royals 7-1 Wednesday to close to 3-2 in the best-of-seven matchup.
“It’s the start that we needed,” Troy Tulowitzki said. “They’re a great team over there. We know that. But this guy kept them off balance and allowed the offense to settle in and get some runs.”
Tulowitzki provided three of those runs. He broke open with a bases-clearing double off Kelvin Herrera in the sixth, giving him seven RBIs in the series. Edwin Encarnacion had walked with the bases loaded against Edinson Volquez, who seemed flustered by close calls against the Royals.
Kansas City had 30 hits in the first two games in Toronto, but Estrada faced the minimum 20 batters before Lorenzo Cain walked with two outs in the seventh. Closer Roberto Osuna was perfect in the ninth.
Yordano Ventura will start for the defending AL champions on Friday in Game 6 against David Price, the Game 2 loser.
Estrada, a 32-year-old free-agent to be, enabled his bullpen to rest, a day after Kansas City romped 14-2 in a game that saw infielder Cliff Pennington pitch in the ninth.
“This time around I had a better fastball command,” said Estrada, who gave up three runs in the opener. “That was the key to this game.”
Toronto is trying to become just the 13th team to rally and win among 80 who trailed 3-1 in best-of-seven postseason series. It has happened four of 17 times in the LCS, including when the Royals bounced back against the Blue Jays in 1985 en route to Kansas City’s only World Series title. In this year’s best-of-five Division Series, Toronto fell behind 0-2, then won three straight against Texas.
Before 49,325 roaring fans, Chris Colabello’s solo homer into the left-field seats in the second gave Estrada a lead. It was the only mistake by Volquez, the Game 1 winner.
Estrada didn’t make a miscue until Salvador Perez homered with two outs in the eighth. Estrada retired his first nine batters, ending at four Escobar’s record streak of leading off playoff games with hits.
Escobar, who entered 9 for 15 (.600), got Kansas City’s first hit when he opened the fourth with a ground single past a diving Tulowitzki at shortstop.
Zobrist promptly grounded into a double play to second baseman Ryan Goins.
“He was really good today,” Escobar said. “He threw the ball down, down and away, down and in. He didn’t miss many pitches today.”
Kansas City had no other runners until Cain walked with two outs in the seventh. Price was up in the bullpen, but Estrada got Eric Hosmer to fly out.
Volquez allowed just two singles after Colabello connected but lost the strike zone in the sixth.
Ben Revere led off with a walk and Volquez hit Josh Donaldson with the first pitch. In August, Volquez hit Donaldson in a testy game that included a benches-clearing scrum.
He then walked Jose Bautista in a 10-pitch at-bat on a knuckle curve that looked to get a piece of the plate.
“I thought the pitch to Bautista was definitely a strike,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Yost shouted from the dugout for Perez to appeal to first base on ball four, thinking Bautista may have swung. But it was too loud in the closed-roof stadium for Perez to hear.
“We were trying to get their attention to get him to appeal it,” Yost said. “I don’t know if he was arguing the pitch, I don’t know what he was talking about.”
Encarnacion walked on another pitch that upset Volquez and Yost. Volquez turned his back to plate umpire Dan Iassogna as Revere jogged home for a 2-0 lead. It was his last batter.
Herrera relieved and struck out Colabello. With the crowd chanting “Tu-lo! Tu-lo!” Tulowitzki sent a drive to the center-field wall, sending fans into a towel-waving frenzy.