TORONTO — They were getting acclimated again to Exhibition Stadium during off-day workouts here Monday. They were batting around the subject of pressure.
Kansas City's George Brett stepped toward the cage and said it was all on Toronto.
The Blue Jays' Lloyd Moseby massaged his bat handle with a pine-tar rag and labeled Brett's contention absurd.
He took a practice swing behind the cage and said that the pressure had to be on a team whose season could end with one error, one game.
Then he leaned against the cage and added that the Blue Jays, who laughed at pressure during a tense season, are hopeful of avoiding the drama of a seventh and final game in the playoffs for the American League championship.
Game 6 will be played tonight with Toronto veteran Doyle Alexander and Kansas City sophomore Mark Gubicza debating the issue of pressure as the starting pitchers.
Said Brett: "We were down 3-1, now we're down 3-2. No one expected us to win coming in, and no one expects us to win now. We're still the underdog, still the team with nothing to lose. The pressure is all on Toronto."
Said Moseby: "People have been coming to tell me that George is saying the pressure is on us. That's absurd, ridiculous. I mean, he has to send it somewhere, but don't send it to us. We don't accept it. Air mail it elsewhere. Leave it outside the door.
"We can afford to lose a game. The pressure on them is knowing one error can end their season. We laughed at pressure. We had more of it holding off the Yankees than we've faced here. I mean, I haven't felt anything. How can the pressure be on us?"
Maybe it would be in sharing the anticipation of Canadian fans who have helped turn this playoff into an October Olympics.
Maybe it would be in knowing that there will be no absence of winter heat if they can't win one of two in their own park with their best two pitchers going.
Dave Stieb, working on three days' rest for the second straight time, will pitch against the Royals and Bret Saberhagen Wednesday night, if a seventh game is needed.
Center fielder Moseby said he hoped it won't be.
"I'd have liked to have gotten it done yesterday (Sunday)," he said. "With the Yankees (in the two September showdowns), the anticipation of winning was not getting frustrating, but you were getting older every day. I don't want to go through the emotions again. I don't want to go to the all-important seventh game. The media and TV would play it up, but I don't want to go through the drama. I want to get it done tomorrow."
The Blue Jays usually find a way at home. They were 54-26 here during the regular season. Only the Yankees and Royals had a winning record (4-2) in Toronto.
Now, however, the question is: Did Team Canada have its bats confiscated in Kansas City? The Jays were shut out by Danny Jackson Sunday after having scored a 3-1 victory Saturday. They have scored in just one of the last 18 innings.
"We got as many hits (eight) as Kansas City did yesterday, but we didn't get the big hit," Moseby said. "We scored six runs in the first two games and five in the third. We're leading, 3-2.
"We've obviously been getting it done, but you can't do it every day. These are the two best pitching staffs in the league. How much are the Royals hitting?"
The Royals, who are hitting .223, don't win with their bats. They rely on quality arms. They are relying tonight on a 23-year-old right-hander with an admitted tendency to become too emotional, to let the pressure of the moment dilute his stuff.
The 6-foot 5-inch, 210-pound Gubicza, born and reared in Philadelphia, was the Royals' second pick in the amateur draft of 1981. Then, when Kansas City rebuilt its rotation last year, turning almost entirely to young pitchers, Gubicza was promoted to a full-time starter and finished with a 10-14 record.
He reversed that mark this year, winning his last five starts during an 8-5 second half that initially failed to win him a starting assignment against the Blue Jays, whose susceptibility to left-handed pitching prompted Kansas City Manager Dick Howser to schedule three left-handed starters and Saberhagen.
The plan changed when southpaw Bud Black went seven innings as the Game 2 starter, pitched relief in Game 3 and warmed up three times during Sunday's Game 5, which the Royals had to win, of course.
Howser told Gubicza he would be starting Game 6 immediately after Sunday's game was over.
"It was a dream come true," Gubicza said. "I had wanted to start all along, but our left-handers had such good success (against Toronto this year) that I understood the decision."
Sunday's decision left Gubicza so excited, he said, that he didn't remember talking to a horde of reporters in the clubhouse, so excited that he didn't think he would be able to sleep.
"Fortunately, I got home early and was able to calm down before I went to bed," he said.
It's essential that Gubicza stays calm, stays cool.