"When you go, Ben, we go."
Ben Revere hears this all the time from his teammates, being the leadoff guy. It was no different on Wednesday night before he strode to the plate in the bottom of the sixth in Game 5 of the ALCS. It was 1-0 Blue Jays, a not-so-comfortable lead against a Kansas City Royals team that one night earlier hit up Toronto for 14 runs.
Revere was first up in the inning.
And what follows in this half frame, the bottom of the sixth, is the rally that kept the Blue Jays’ post-season alive.
This is how it happened.
Revere watches two straight balls, then fouls off a pair of Edinson Volquez sinkers to bring the count to 2-2.
"I was tryin’ to do anything I can to get on base, just battling," Revere says.
He watches two more balls go by, and the nearly 50,000 people in Rogers Centre cheer as he jogs to first. The walk is his first time on base in Game 5.
"I know, OK, I can really get in Volquez’s head, make him think I’m gonna steal and kinda mess up his time," Revere says. "I know he hates side-steppin.’"
Plunk. Josh Donaldson eats a 95-mile-per-hour sinker. The ball hits the padding on his left elbow, bounces off his chest and off his other arm.
Donaldson winces, takes off his batting gloves and runs to first.
"Now we’re going: two on, nobody out," says second baseman, Ryan Goins. Revere heads to second, knowing this next at-bat is big. "Now I’m thinkin’, [Volquez] is really gonna concentrate on those strikes against Bautista," Revere says.
Bautista does take a first-pitch strike, on a 96-mph sinker. Three straight balls follow. Bautista checks a swing, and it’s called a ball.
"I wanted to get an appeal there," Royals manager Ned Yost says, "but I couldn’t get anybody’s attention because the crowd was so loud."
Bautista fouls off ball after ball after ball. "You see him swing through a few 3-2 pitches that were there," says Goins, "and you just had a feeling he’s gonna click one and hit a homer. But he worked it, got a breaking ball, he walked."
Of that ball four call, Yost says: "I thought the pitch to Bautista was a strike."
Bautista trots to first, Donaldson trots to second, Revere trots to third. It’s bases loaded for Edwin Encarnacion.
Yost leaves Volquez in to face Encarnacion. "I thought he still had good stuff," the manager says. "We were looking for a double play ball, quite frankly, with all the movement on it, we just didn’t get it."
Encarnacion works Volquez to a full count.
"Volquez didn’t want to throw some cookie, where Eddie hits a grand slam or some gapper," Revere says. "In that situation, we did a good job with men in scorin’ position. Put the pressure on the pitcher, not on us. They’re the ones in trouble."
Encarnacion watches a 96-mph sinker for a ball four. "Eddie’s at-bat was phenomenal," first baseman Chris Colabello says.
Revere scores on the Encarnacion walk, it’s 2-0 Blue Jays, and this crowd is on its feet.
Encarnacion runs to first, Donaldson moves to second and Bautista moves to third.
Royals right-handed reliever Kelvin Herrera comes in from the bullpen, and Yost is out to talk to the home plate umpire.
"I thought some of those pitches were close," Yost says. "We didn’t get them."
Up to bat now with the bases loaded is Colabello, who earlier in this game hit a solo shot.
"My job there would have been to try to get somethin’ to the outfield, somethin’ in the air, stay out of a double play, get a run in," Colabello says. "I went up and said, ‘Don’t punch out.’ And then I punched out. No, just kidding."
He does punch out, though. Colabello goes down swinging on a 99-mph four-seam fastball. "A three-pitch strikeout is not what I had in mind," he says.
Troy Tulowitzki is up next, bases still loaded, one out. No. 2 sees a 99-mph four-seam fastball, too. It’s the first pitch he sees. Tulowitzki swings and connects and he sends a shot to left centre that hits off the black and green “Acer” sign on the home run wall.
Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion all sprint home. It’s 5-0, Blue Jays.
"He picked me up, right there," Colabello says, of No. 2.
Tulowitzki stands on second, unsmiling. He looks at the dugout and he yells "Let’s go!" Then he chews on his pink bubble gum.
"He doesn’t smile," Revere says, grinning. "Sometimes. Sometimes he does." Adds Goins: "He’s probably smilin’ inside."
The scene in the bullpen, to hear Aaron Sanchez describe it, is "out of the roof."
Roberto Osuna doles out a few high-fives, then the Blue Jays closer takes a deep breath. "Very emotional," he says. "We were hoping to hit today, because we couldn’t hit last night. So happy."
Dioner Navarro strikes out looking. Kevin Pillar follows, swinging. That’s it for the bottom of the sixth.
On his way to first base for the top of the seventh, Colabello runs over to Tulowitzki and rubs his head, the way you’d congratulate a little kid.
Tulowitzki tells him: "I got your back, I told you."
"It was awesome," Colabello says.
It’s 5-0, but nobody in that Blue Jays dugout is thinking it’s over, not yet.
Revere runs on to the field, and he yells, "Let’s get these nine outs!"