Game Ten Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

We're going to party like its 1985!

The Royals and Blue Jays are both expansion franchises, with the Royals being the older brother by just eight years. Unlike many other expansion franchises, both the Royals and Jays found success fairly quickly, with the Royals posting a winning season in just their third year, and the Jays posting one in their sixth. Both franchises used the Dodgers as a model, and relied heavily on developing talent internally. The Jays quickly developed stars like Tony Fernandez, Jesse Barfield, Lloyd Moseby, Jimmy Key, and converted outfielder Dave Stieb. They complimented that nucleus with good young talent stolen from other organizations, like Fred McGriff (Yankees), Kelly Gruber (Indians), George Bell (Phillies), and Tom Henke (Rangers).

The two clubs met in the American League Championship Series in 1985, just eight years after the Jays came into existence. In retrospect, it was a kind of passing of the torch. The Royals had been the most consistent American League winner for the previous ten years. The Jays would be the most consistent American League winner for the next ten years. But in 1985, the Blue Jays were not quite ready.

Toronto took the first two games of the League Championship Series at home, including a thrilling back-and-forth Game Two that went to ten innings. The Royals took Game Three in "The George Brett Game" that Craig documented recently when George just took over the game, homering twice and collecting four hits. But K.C. dropped Game Four at home in a heartbreaker when Charlie Leibrandt and Dan Quisenberry could not hold onto a 1-0 ninth inning lead. The Royals found themselves in a 3-1 hole, and were fortunate that 1985 was the first year the LCS had been expanded to a "best-of-seven" format.

Danny Jackson pitched the game of his life in Game 5 to keep the Royals alive, shutting out the Jays and retiring the last nine hitters he faced for a 2-0 complete game shutout. George Brett would homer again in Game 6 to give the Royals the lead in a 5-3 win. And in Game 7, it was catcher Jim Sundburg who unloaded a critical three-run triple to break the game wide open in a 6-2 Royals victory. The Royals would claim the pennant and go on to win their first World Championship. The Jays would go on to win three more division titles, and two more championships over the next ten years.

Since the Wild Card era began in 1995, neither the Royals or Jays has made the playoffs. Only one other club in all of baseball (Pittsburgh) has suffered through such a drought. This past winter, both the Royals and Jays made waves with major acquisitions to make themselves relevant again. The Royals of course mortgaged the farm to acquire Rays ace James Shields, as well as Ervin Santana. The Jays sacrificed young talent as well to acquire Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey.

Could we see a rematch of 1985 this fall?

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