TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays may have staved off elimination for one day with a 5-1 Game 4 win, but they are far from content with just avoiding a four-game sweep from the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series.
And after figuring out what it took to beat the upstart Indians, champions of the A.L. Central Division, the Blue Jays feel an even greater effort will be required if they are able to continue fighting their way back into the best-of-seven series.
“From pitch one, in a must-win game, you've got to be ready to go,” Game 4 starter Aaron Sanchez said. “I think when I was like, ‘Alright,’ was when he got us on the board and I was facing three, four, and five, and it was a one, two, three-inning with maybe ten pitches. I don't know what it was, but right there, I think that was the turning point, ‘Let's go, don't look back now.’”
Prior to Game 4, third baseman Josh Donaldson addressed his teammates, and then, backed it up with a solo home run off Indians starter Corey Kluber, as well as a defensive stop that short-circuited a potential Cleveland rally in the fifth inning when it was just a 2-1 Toronto lead.
“Anytime that you are in this situation, when you get down three games to none, there is some frustration that's involved in that,” Donaldson said. “The fact of the matter is I'm not ready to go home. I feel like our team is capable of winning this entire thing, but that's more of the bigger picture, where we have to focus more right now and taking it, as he said, from pitch one and into the final out.
“I was emotional for the fact that I want -- that's just -- first off, that's how I am. I'm a pretty emotional player as it is, but I'm going to let it show out there when I'm helping my team. And for the sheer fact when my teammates have success, I'm happy and emotional for that as well.”
Donaldson said the emotional address came from the fact that he could not accept the Blue Jays managing just three runs over the first three games after being one of the most prolific offensive teams in all of baseball over the past several seasons.
“There wasn't a whole lot of sleep, I'll tell you that,” Donaldson said. “I try to invest as much of myself as I can in my teammates and really, not only just preparing for this game for myself, but trying to help other people prepare as well, and go out there and give them an understanding of what they're about to face and kind of giving them some information and just kind of being that guy that they can try to lean on.”
And in order for that type of leadership to continue being meaningful to the Blue Jays, Donaldson knows he has to keep answering the bell and playing to the level he proved capable of in being named the American League Most Valuable Player during the 2015 season.
“It's not just one game,” Donaldson said. “It's not just yesterday or tomorrow. It's for the rest of the time that we have here, and I want to come to the yard. I believe in each and every one of those guys that are in there. That's why I'm so passionate.
“If I didn't feel like we had a chance, I would roll over and just say, ‘Alright guys, go ahead,’ but I feel like we have the team, and I feel like we have the players in the clubhouse to be able to win the series. And we have to be able to go out there as a team, as individuals, and compete and do the things that are necessary.”