TORONTO — Blue Jays ace David Price knew there was a chance he'd be asked to pitch out of the bullpen in Wednesday's Game 5.
Luckily, Marco Estrada made sure it didn't come to that.
Estrada went 7 2/3 stellar innings, giving up one run and three hits while striking out five en route to a 7-1 Blue Jays victory over the Kansas City Royals that cut Toronto's deficit in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series to 3-2.
As the series shifts back to Kansas City for Game 6 on Friday, Price will be able to start for the Blue Jays in their fifth elimination game of the post-season.
But he was almost taken out of the equation, when he started warming in the bullpen midway through Wednesday's victory.
"I was warming up to come in," Price said when asked whether he was simply throwing the typical bullpen session that most starters throw between their scheduled starts or if he was gearing up to get into the game.
"(I was) getting ready to go get us outs."
Had Price come in to pitch Wednesday night, it would have marked his second relief appearance this post-season.
His first, a lacklustre performance in Game 4 of the American League Division Series in Texas last week in which he gave up three runs on six hits through three innings, still earned him his first post-season victory since 2008.
Price says he doesn't see much difference in warming up to pitch out of the bullpen or to start, especially when it comes to elimination games.
"It's still pitching, it's still baseball, it's still the same thing I've done for a long time," he said. "Just go out there, help this team win and go get outs."
Price, whose last start came during Game 2 of the ALCS on Saturday in Kansas City — a tough 6-3 loss for the Blue Jays — said his normal bullpen session between outings would have been Monday, though he also added that he rarely throws between starts.
Since he didn't throw earlier in the week, Wednesday night's bullpen warm-up served as a de facto throwing session.
"It's going to work out that way," Price said when asked if that was the plan.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said pre-game Wednesday that the Blue Jays' prized left-hander could get into the game if Estrada needed help early on.
Afterwards Gibbons told the media how close Price was to seeing action.
"Well, he wasn't far off," Gibbons said. "Got my attention, was it the sixth inning when (Estrada) gave up a couple long fly balls. That's what you look for out of Marco, because he's a fly ball guy. When they get him, it's usually home runs. That got my attention a little bit.
"Then he bounced back after that with a couple of strong innings to get later into the game. That really worked out perfectly we didn't need David tonight so he could throw Friday."
Price, who's still looking for his first post-season win as a starter, will get at least one more crack at it this year.
And he's looking forward to that.
"I'll be ready for Game 6," he said.
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Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press