It was the perfect way to open up a homestand after getting swept in Baltimore, until it wasn’t.
Eric Thames laser-beam home run broke a tie and gave the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning, and Brett Lawrie followed with a single, went to third as Tom Wilhelmsen’s pick-off attempt went wildly into right field, then scored on a J.P. Arencibia sacrifice fly.
Edwin Encarnacion had gone deep earlier, Colby Rasmus had doubled and tripled and Ricky Romero took a no-hitter into the 6th inning. It was a good night to be a Blue Jays fan at Rogers Centre.
Most importantly, I caught a foul ball. I couldn’t tell you who hit it, or even when it happened (though I believe it was in the top of the 7th), but it’s the first time I have ever caught a foul ball at a baseball game in which I wasn’t playing, after having attended probably more than 2,000 games. It was pretty awesome. I reacted sort of like Don Cherry’s intro to Coach’s Corner for some reason, not sure why, but there was a ton of applause coming from the seats below me which might have had something to do with it, and then I looked for a kid to whom to toss the ball. I found one, who happened to be sitting five seats away from my cousin, who I didn’t notice. Sorry again, Ashley.
Anyway, the insurance run the Jays got in the 8th meant that things were still pretty cool even after Francisco Cordero gave up a solo homer to Michael Saunders with one out in the 9th. He got a pop-up from the next hitter for the second out, and then a routine ground ball to third from pinch-hitter Kyle Seager, and that’s when everything fell apart.
Lawrie handled the grounder cleanly and had time to make a good, strong throw as he does pretty much every time he gets a play to make, but the throw didn’t make it all the way to first base, Adam Lind couldn’t pick it – as he does pretty much every time he gets a chance to do so – and the Mariners had a pulse.
With pinch-runner Munenori Kawasaki aboard, Arencibia thought he had a shot to pick him off, but his throw sailed way over Lind’s head and got all the way into the right-field corner as Kawasaki went to third. The Jays then intentionally walked Dustin Ackley to get to the light-hitting Brendan Ryan, but the M’s went to the bench for ex-Ray John Jaso (Jingleheimer Schmidt), who hit a line drive to centre. Rasmus laid out trying to make the game-saving catch, but the ball hit the turf in front of him and bounced back towards the infield. Kawasaki scored to tie it and register the Blue Jays’ fifth blown save of the season, but Ackley got greedy and tried to score all the way from first – Kelly Johnson picked up the ball and threw him out at the plate to keep things tied.
It was a brutal way to let a lead slip away late, but the Blue Jays still had a life. They went down in order in the bottom of the 9th, though, and Luis Perez – previously unscored upon this season – came on to work the 10th. John Farrell had been singing his praises, and rightly so, in meeting with the media before the game. Perez came in having allowed nine baserunners in 12 2/3 innings, with right-handed hitters 3-for-19 against him this season and lefties just 2-for-22. So naturally, after getting Ichiro Suzuki to ground out, Perez gave up three straight singles to load the bases for Saunders, who took a 1-2 pitch out to right field for his first career Grand Slam, and that was that.
There were a couple of points at which the game could have turned more in the Blue Jays’ favour earlier:
-Arencibia tried to score from second on a Lind single to right with two out in the 7th, and though replays showed he got his hand in ahead of Miguel Olivo’s tag, he was called out. Arencibia had led off the inning by getting hit with a pitch and been bunted to second. With the score tied at three, it seemed like a great time to use Rajai Davis as the designated pinch-runner, but he stayed on the bench – I’m assuming the thought was there might be a better time to use him later on.
-Romero, who had pitched so well for the first six innings, ran into trouble in the 7th. He gave up a one-out solo homer to Jesus Montero, but then got a second out, still with a 3-2 lead. One could make the case that after Miguel Olivo’s two-out single, Romero should have been yanked, but he had only thrown 105 pitches and the next hitter was Casper Wells, who had struck out looking in both his previous trips to the plate. For me, I don’t think that’s a time when you pull your ace. John Farrell didn’t think so either, and Wells tied the game with a double down the right-field line. Sometimes the right decision yields the wrong result.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Farrell’s decisions, the fact remains that if Brett Lawrie makes a solid throw on a routine grounder with two out in the ninth and nobody on, the game is over and the Blue Jays win. It’s rare that one can point to one mistake that ultimately costs a team a game, but that was it. Even though after the error the Blue Jays still had the lead with a man on first and two out in the ninth, if that routine play is made, the game is over.
Physical errors are going to happen, and Lawrie has played a fantastic third base so far this season. He’s made five errors already this season, and he’ll likely have a high error total, but part of that is because he has such great range that he gets to balls that most other third baseman can’t. That’s not why that error happened, though, and it was just a really crappy time for it.
The loss means that the Blue Jays have followed their four-game win streak with a four-game losing streak, just as they followed each of their three two-game winning streaks to start the season with a two-game losing streak. What that means is that they’ll likely begin a four-game win streak on Saturday afternoon, which will include a win over Yu Darvish and the Rangers on Monday night.
Here’s tonight’s extraordinarily brief edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
The series continues with ex-Mariner Brandon Morrow, still with an axe to grind against the team that jerked him around for years, taking on veteran righty Kevin Millwood. We’ll be on the air at 3:30PM Eastern for the pre-game show ahead of a 4:07 first pitch, the last Saturday home game of the season with that start time – join us, won’t you?
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