The Toronto Blue Jays are trying to go where only one team has gone before. They took an important first step in Game 4 on Tuesday.

Facing a 3-0 deficit to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series, Toronto played its second win-or-go-home game this month. It had the same happy ending as the AL Wild Card Game. The Blue Jays walked away with a 5-1 win, earning the right to play another day.

And now for some obligatory words of caution.

The Blue Jays are still three wins short of joining the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to ever come back from a 3-0 hole in a best-of-seven MLB series. And while winning four in a row is something they did seven times in the regular season, losing four in a row is something the Indians did zero times.

But there aren’t many other words of caution worth diving into following Toronto’s entry into the W column in this series. A 3-1 deficit is less daunting than a 3-0 deficit, and the Blue Jays looked the part of a team coming alive in Game 4.

Nobody deserves more credit than Aaron Sanchez and Josh Donaldson. Sanchez limited Cleveland to two hits and one run in six innings. Donaldson set the tone early when he put the Blue Jays up 1-0 with a solo homer off Corey Kluber in the third inning:

Donaldson was also heard from on defense in the fifth, making a diving snag and throwing to first to rob Carlos Santana of a single that likely would have tied the score at 2-2. This was the reigning AL MVP putting his money where his mouth is.

“I let the boys know I was coming to play today,” Donaldson told Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet Magazine, recounting what he said at a team meeting before Game 4.

He wasn’t alone. The Blue Jays collected nine hits en route to their five runs in Game 4. Edwin Encarnacion got the other big hit, scoring a pair on a bases-loaded single in the seventh following an intentional walk to Donaldson—highlighted by CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson as Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s first misstep this October.

Although it wasn’t an offensive explosion reminiscent of the hurtings the Blue Jays put on the Texas Rangers in sweeping the ALDS, Toronto’s offensive output in Game 4 is a start for this series. The Blue Jays scored only three runs in the first three games, hitting just .177 as a team.

There’s a disembodied voice saying “Well, actually” and pointing out that the Blue Jays got five of their hits and three of their runs off three Cleveland relievers not named Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. The Blue Jays earned the chance to do that, though. Making his first-ever start on three days’ rest, a not-too-sharp Kluber was worked for 89 pitches in five innings. 

And now, Toronto’s passing of the Kluber test has ramifications beyond just Game 4.

It was easy to think along with Francona when he decided to start Kluber on short rest. It was either go for the kill or roll the dice on an anonymous left-hander named Ryan Merritt. Easy call there.

But since it backfired, Francona now has no choice but to trust Merritt, who has all of one major league start to his name, to perform well enough in Game 5 on Wednesday to prevent a 3-2 series. The Blue Jays are already champing at the bit.

“With our experience in our lineup, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be shaking in his boots more than we are,” said Jose Bautista of Merritt, via Ben Nicholson-Smith of

If the Blue Jays do what they should against Merritt in Game 5, they’ll get Josh Tomlin in Game 6. He’s more of a challenge, but the Blue Jays could be optimistic about exploiting his chronic homeritis the second time around after failing to do so in Game 2.

If this series goes to a Game 7, Kluber would have to start on three days’ rest once again. He wasn’t especially sharp in one start on three days’ rest. He probably wouldn’t be any sharper in a second straight start on three days’ rest.

It’s not an ideal outlook for Francona, but he has no choice. Trevor Bauer was supposed to be a big part of the team’s plans for this series. His drone mishap put that on thin ice, and that thin ice broke open the same time his stitches did in the first inning of Game 3.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are sitting pretty with a rotation loaded with able bodies and healthy fingers. Sanchez did his part by silencing Cleveland hitters in Game 4, and now things are flipped back over for Marco Estrada in Game 5 and, if necessary, J.A. Happ in Game 6 and Marcus Stroman in Game 7. 

Asking the Blue Jays to get it done with offense and starting pitching isn’t asking too much. It’s how they won games all season. And if Game 4 was a wake-up call for the Blue Jays offense in particular, it will be difficult for an Indians team that hasn’t been tearing the cover off the ball and is now light on pitching to close out this series. 

There should be no mistaking that the odds are still against the Blue Jays. We know where history stands on them completing a 3-0 comeback. The digital bean-counters aren’t more optimistic. According to FanGraphs, Toronto has just a 7.2 percent chance of winning the ALCS.

But if Game 4 did anything, it turned a fool’s hope into a fighting chance. Now all the Blue Jays must do is abide by the words veteran reliever Jason Grilli shared with Nicholson-Smith.

“If we’re in this position we may as well make history.”


Stats courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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