Blue Jays' breakthrough season ends in painful fashion with Game 6 loss

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The last and only previous time the Toronto Blue Jays played on Oct. 23 was Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, when Joe Carter hit the most famous home run in Canadian history to win the championship. There was no dramatic walk-off home run this Oct. 23. Instead, the Blue Jays left baserunners stranded on second and third in the ninth inning and walked off slowly to their clubhouse to pack up, while the Kansas City Royals celebrated their 4-3 Game 6 victory and second consecutive American League pennant.

"There's still a sour taste in your mouth," said Jose Bautista, whose two home runs Friday were not enough to keep Toronto's season alive. "Being so close and having the opportunity and not being able to come up with a run. We could have played much better baseball."

Yes they could have, but the Blue Jays still can be proud of how far they got given where they were in late July -- and how long ago that previous Oct. 23 game was.

"I think the country, the city, the fans, the organization, our team has so much to be proud of," R.A. Dickey said. "We were one of the last three teams -- the best three teams in the world -- still playing. The loss is still fresh now, and it's hard to be satisfied with our season, but in a day or so I'll be happy we got as far as we did."

For good reason: The Blue Jays were below .500 and eight games back on July 28. But they made several deadline deals, adding Troy Tulowitzki and David Price to the roster and surging to the AL East title the rest of the way.

Price took the mound for Game 6 trying to keep Toronto's season alive and also kill off his winless drought as a postseason starter. The 2012 Cy Young winner and 2015 AL ERA leader had lost his previous seven starts in the postseason, including Game 2 here. On Friday, he held the Royals to five hits while striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, two of those hits were home runs, and he allowed three runs total.

"I didn't pitch good enough to win," he said.

Bautista kept him from getting the loss by homering in the fourth inning and again in the eighth to tie the score 3-3. A 45-minute rain delay then forced the Blue Jays to replace Aaron Sanchez with Roberto Osuna in the bottom of the eighth, and he allowed the winning run.

Lorenzo Cain scored that run by sprinting all the way from first base on Eric Hosmer's drive down the right-field line. Bautista fielded the ball along the fence and threw toward second base to keep Hosmer from advancing, but Cain never slowed down and beat Tulowitzki's relay throw to the plate.

"I felt like I cut it off quick enough to where if I threw it to second, I would keep him from getting to second and keep Cain from scoring, but obviously I was wrong," Bautista said. "He did a great job running, hustling the whole way and not slowing down. And the third base coach did a great job making the decision to send him.

"But if I throw the ball home, the Royals have runners on second and third with no outs. It's not a guaranteed run -- like it ended up being -- because I threw to second, but they would have been in a good position to score at least one run. It was one of those tough ones. Now I wish I had thrown home, but who knows what would have happened if I had done that?"

Or who knows what would have happened had Bautista been able to bat in the ninth?

Trailing 4-3, Russell Martin singled to lead off the ninth inning against Wade Davis and pinch runner Dalton Pompey stole second and third base while Kevin Pillar walked, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. The game's best offense was unable to score though, going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. They struck out twice, and likely AL MVP Josh Donaldson grounded to third to end the inning, the game and the season. And begin the winter.

There are questions looming this winter, as there are for every team. Will the Blue Jays re-sign potential free agents, such as Price and Marco Estrada? Can they improve the bullpen? Will their lineup be as powerful as it was this year?

Whatever the answers, the winter still will be a brighter one than so many over the past two decades.

"I think the future in Canada is bright for baseball," Martin said. "We had a tremendous year. We didn't have the finish we wanted, but we're definitely going to hold our heads high."