Blue Jays were resolute when tensions were high

Chris Colabello hit a two-run home run, R.A. Dickey threw seven shutout innings and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals 5-2 in testy matchup Sunday, taking three of four from the AL's top team.

TORONTO — Alright, let’s be honest: you kind of hoped Aaron Sanchez threw at Alcides Escobar, right? I mean, just a little bit?

It would fit into the narrative being spun after the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals 5-2 on Sunday, wrapping up a four-game series by winning their third game against the best team in the American League. That the Blue Jays had somehow laid down a marker looking ahead to the Fall; that a dugout-clearing incident sparked when Sanchez’s 2-0 pitch kissed Escobar on the knee was somehow a sign of a new resolve stemming from Alex Anthopoulos’ bossing of the non-waiver trade deadline.

Starter R.A. Dickey certainly bit on the angle.

“They’re used to pushing people around, so when they come on to the playground and there’s a kid bigger than they are for a day, it probably pisses them off,” said Dickey. “It’s part of their swagger. Part of what makes them good.”

Dickey (6-10) was masterful starting on three days rest, allowing just two hits over seven innings in front of a sell-out crowd of 45,736 as the Blue Jays raised their record to three games over .500 ahead of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins beginning on Monday at the Rogers Centre.

Chris Colabello stroked a two-run homer, Jose Bautista contributed a run-scoring ground rule double, and the Jays answered a Royals rally with a manufactured two-run eighth, as Roberto Osuna kept it all together for a four-out save.

This was a series rife with high-quality, tension-filled baseball but it took a nasty turn on Sunday when Edison Volquez (10-6) hit Josh Donaldson with his eighth pitch of the game.

Home plate umpire Jim Wolf had a howler. Known to have a generous but consistent strike zone, he hadn’t ejected a player or manager from a game this season. On Sunday, he issued a warning to both teams after Volquez hit Donaldson on the first pitch to him in the first inning. Donaldson menacingly nodded at Volquez as he walked to first, but failed to take any further action when Volquez again came in head high with a pitch to Donaldson in the third before Ryan Madson came inside again on a 2-2 in the seventh.

That’s when Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected – five pitches after Madson hit Troy Tulowitzki on the forearm. Wolf put himself in a difficult situation with the early warning, since it effectively meant he was required to judge intent for the remainder of the game. He tried, letting Dickey know that he had leeway as a knuckle-ball pitcher. “I’m among the league leaders in hit batters,” said Dickey. “But he said he knew I wasn’t going to be trying to hit anybody with a knuckleball.” And Wolf let Donaldson vent twice in a manner that would easily be an ejection at other times.

But he dropped the hammer on Sanchez.

Enter Sanchez. Exit Sanchez – with the dugouts and bullpens emptying with little of consequence, notable only for the fact that Volquez ran behind the pack and started chirping only when his coaches and teammates were between him and the Blue Jays and for the fact that Gibbons ran out of the clubhouse to join the fracas.

Gibbons could face supplemental discipline. Sanchez, it’s safe to say, earned brownie points with his teammates as a guy who’ll be there for them – even though that wasn’t the message he wanted sent out beyond the clubhouse walls.

“The last thing I’m trying to do is put a runner on,” said Sanchez. “ If I want to send a message, I would have sent it to their big guys. I think its kind of crap … but we got a ‘W.’”

“He (Wolf) said: ‘Obviously, you know tensions are high. Just pitch your game.’ Go back and look at the at bat: the first pitch was down the middle and the next two got away from me. I’m not the guy out there with perfect command, I think you guys know that. I’ve got 65 walks in 65 innings or whatever.”

The hit batter was costly. Four pitches later, with Osuna in for Sanchez, Ben Zobrist clubbed a two-run home run that pulled the Royals to within one run at 3-2. The Blue Jays put the game away in the eight on a sacrifice fly by Ben Revere and a soft, run-scoring single buy Tulowitzki. Osuna gave up a one-out single to Kendrys Morales in the ninth, but induced Salvador Perez to hit into a game-ending double play to collect his seventh save.

Donaldson and Volquez engaged in some meaty to-and-fro during post-game interviews. Volquez said Donaldson was “crying like a baby,” and added: “He got mad at everybody like he’s Barry Bonds. He’s not Barry Bonds. He’s got three years in the league. We’ve been around a lot longer than he has.” Not bad. Your turn, Josh?

“When a ball’s thrown right at you, you know right out of the hand if it’s intentional or not. That being said, I couldn’t care less that he hit me. I just think there were some things that went along in the game that were mis-managed poorly. Jim Wolf I have a lot of respect for … behind the plate … I don’t think he made a lot of right decisions today, and, um, that’s what you end up getting out of games like that: you get bench-clearing when it never had to go that route.

“There are no quarrels between that team and this team. These are two good ball clubs. There’s a warning given after he hit me in the first at bat. Guys get hit all the time, but you don’t see warnings thrown out all the time. But the reason he did it is because he knew just as well as I did that he hit me on purpose. So, he had two decisions there: one, he could have thrown him out immediately, which I don’t want him to do – I thought it was pretty good hittin’ so I don’t want him out of there – second, when you give a warning like that and you see balls continually thrown around the head area … it’s pretty much one of those things where you can’t question intent. There have to be repercussions for the warning at the beginning, and I think that’s where he (Wolf) went wrong at it.”

Let’s leave aside the message-sending nonsense for a minute, and just agree with Gibbons that: “For where we are, that was an important game for us,” that it was a big test for Sanchez and Osuna on a hot-tempered day. How big was the win? So big that Dickey brought out a new big word: “synergy.”

“It was a good baseball game,” continued Dickey, who struck out six and walked two. “They knew what was coming, we knew what we needed to do to protect our guys – and nobody got hurt.”

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