11:41 PM Eastern
Well, how about that?
The Blue Jays picked up their first walk-off win of the season and improved to 3-1 by first coming back from a 5-0 deficit to force extra innings (with major thanks to the Oakland A’s defense), and then coming back from a run down in the bottom of the 10th on a two-run homer by Yunel Escobar – an opposite-field shot into the Oakland bullpen that was his first big fly of the season.
Escobar took the small-ball thoughts right out of everybody’s mind – would he bunt? Would Davis steal second? Would Davis steal second and would Escobar then bunt? – by taking the first pitch he saw from Grant Balfour deep and trotting 360 feet.
The home run continued an amazing streak that the Blue Jays have going. Rajai Davis has three hits this season; his first two led immediately to four-run innings, and his third one scored ahead of Escobar’s homer. And how cool is this? Earlier in the ballgame, Escobar told both Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Encarnacion that he was going to wind up delivering the game-winning hit.
Speaking of Villanueva, he played a big part in this win with his 2 2/3 innings of no-hit shutout relief, coming on for a shaky Jo-Jo Reyes. Villanueva bought the Blue Jays time to come back and tie things with his fine work. In total, the bullpen threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed a run on four hits after Reyes gave up five runs on nine hits in his 3 1/3 innings.
An auspicious debut for the lefty to be sure. A great spring earned Reyes a spot in the starting rotation, but if he’s not careful, he’s going to give it right back. His problem tonight wasn’t his stuff, it was his location – and that’s been what has held him back every time he’s gotten a chance in the big leagues, so that doesn’t exactly augur well. He’ll start again on Sunday in Anaheim, but his start after that could well go to Brandon Morrow if Sunday looks anything like tonight. Not that I’m saying pull the rug out from under Reyes because of one bad night, but if there’s no bounceback, Morrow is a freight train coming in the rear-view mirror. Of course, Jesse Litsch (the guy everyone wanted to talk about on The JaysTalk tonight, for some reason) will have something to say about that, too, based on how he throws tomorrow and then in Seattle on Monday.
The Jays’ comeback from the 5-1 deficit was as much an implosion by the A’s as it was good work from the home side. It started with a Rajai Davis double down the left-field line, then Escobar hit a routine grounder between short and third. Davis waited a beat until he saw third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff abandon the bag to go for the ball, then took off for third, crossing in front of Kouzmanoff just as the ball got there – and the ball clanked off Kouzmanoff’s glove for what was scored an error at the time, but later changed to a hit. Adam Lind followed and hit a pop foul towards the stands in short left. Kouzmanoff went back to get it, and made the catch stretching over his head with his back to the plate, so Davis took off for home and scored easily; Kouzmanoff tried to throw to second, but spiked the ball into the turf about 10 feet in front of him.
Next up was Aaron Hill, batting clean-up in the absence of Jose Bautista – reportedly home for the birth of his first child, a daughter, he’ll meet the team in Anaheim on Friday - and Hill hit a rope to left for an RBI single to bring the Jays back within two. Brandon McCarthy tried to pick Hill off first, but threw the ball into right field, and Juan Rivera hit a grounder to third that Kouzmanoff threw away for another error, putting runners on the corners with one out. Edwin Encarnacion was next, and he kept the chains moving with a double into the right-field corner and Travis Snider delivered the tying run with a groundout to second.
It stayed tied until Josh Willingham took Jason Frasor deep leading off the 10th – it was the second homer of the season for Willingham, who leads all his teammates by two in that category. Frasor wound up striking out the side and leaving two on, and got the vulture win, Mike Timlin style, when Escobar provided the heroics.
With the Maple Leafs playing down the street, and going into the evening with a heartbeat in the race to be the 16th-best team in a 30-team league, there wasn’t much of a crowd at the ol’ ballyard. Those who were here saw one heck of a show, though - and it was the fourth time in as many games this season that the Blue Jays were entertaining as all get out. Hopefully with the barely-flickering playoff hopes of the Blue and White now extinguished, some of the Leafs faithful will turn their attention this way, but I’m not holding my breath.
I was expecting an excited, happy edition of The JaysTalk tonight, given, you know, how the game went, but instead I got a few people who called just to take me on about a comment I made in the spring that Jesse Litsch was one of the best pitchers in the A.L. in 2008. Weird how things like that happen. You can hear it for yourself right here:
I don’t want to get into debates about new stats vs. old stats, and I certainly wouldn’t have expected to have people lining up to argue with me about something I said a month ago with which they didn’t agree. But like I said on the show, you can’t throw away stuff like WHIP and ERA because they actually tell the story of what happened. They don’t necessarily tell you why it happened or whether it’s likely to happen again, but they tell you what happened, and that’s significant. If a guy wins a batting title because of an inordinately high BABIP one year, he still won the batting title, he still had a very good year, that can’t be taken away because the advanced stats say he got lucky.
Anyway, here’s hoping for more positivity from JaysTalk callers in the future – or even for more talk about things relevant to that night’s game, especially after wins as dramatic as tonight’s was.
Tomorrow night, the series continues with Litsch making his season debut against Oakland lefty Dallas Braden. J.P. Arencibia should be back in the line-up. We’ll be on the air for you at 7:00 PM Eastern for a 7:07 first pitch, we’ll be live blogging it up with Shi Davidi and Scott Carson, and tweeting feverishly over @Wilnerness590.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome, and will be answered!