It was much too close for comfort in the bottom of the ninth, but the Blue Jays eeked out a victory over the Cleveland Indians despite the continued struggles of the offense thanks to a great pitching performance by Esmil Rogers and clutch hits by Emilio Bonifacio and Munenori Kawasaki.
Rogers followed Josh Johnson's lead and had gave the Jays another solid start Wednesday evening, bouncing back from a horrible outing on July 4. He didn't look good early on, though, letting a whole bunch of Indians board the bases. A couple of singles were erased by a double play in the first, but he wasn't as lucky in the second when a couple of lead-off walks and a Jason Giambi single got the first run on the board for the Indians. Rogers settled down after that, allowing just one more hit in the rest of his six-inning outing. Rogers gave up four hits and three walks, but struck out a career-high seven batters.
Justin Masterson was masterful against the Blue Jays, keeping them scoreless through the first six innings. The Jays had runners on base in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings, but they were unable to score, with the Jays hitting into two double plays in that span. Down 1-0, Blue Jays looked like they had another chance to rally in the top of the sixth with a Jose Reyes single, but Reyes tried to stretch it into a double and Michael Brantley threw him out with plenty of time. That was efficient of the Jays to kill the rally on the same play that started it.
Despite an elevated pitch count, Masterson was sent out to star the seventh. Adam Lind hit a one-out double to start the rally, then after a groundout, a very shaky Masterson proceeded to walk both Maicer Izturis and Josh Thole. Izturis walked on four pitches, but Thole had to fight for it, fouling off a couple of tough sinkers. Indians manager Terry Francona decides to leave Masterson, who was at 115 pitches, in the game to face Emilio Bonifacio with the bases loaded. Bonifacio, a regular target here and in other parts of Jays fandom, made Francona regret his decision by lining a hard-hit single to right, scoring two. Bonifacio cashed in the Blue Jays' first run in 16 innings.
Brett Cecil came in relief in the bottom of the eighth after a clean inning by Dustin McGowan. Cecil wasn't at his best, allowing a Michael Bourn single before walking Nick Swisher. With men on the corners, Michael Brantley hits a sharp grounder up the middle that Jose Reyes should have gotten to, but didn't, allowing Bourn to score the tying run and hanging a blown save on Cecil's record. A couple batters later, with the bases loaded, John Gibbons gave his All-Star reliever the hook and brought in rookie Neil Wagner. Wagner didn't disappoint, striking out Ryan Raburn on a couple of sick 97-mph heaters.
With one out and Colby Rasmus on first in the top of the ninth, Gibbons called starting catcher Josh Thole back to the bench and sent up J.P. Arencibia--the other Jays whipping boy--in his place. Arencibia temporarily silenced his critics by swinging at the first pitch and getting a single to left. Reliever Joe Smith then walked Emilio Bonifacio to bring up Munenori Kawasaki, who was serenaded with "KA-WA-SA-KI!" chants from the Blue Jays fans in the crowd.
The rest, they say, was legendary. The .214 hitter used his magic to deliver another big clutch hit, turning a sinker into a bases-clearing three-run double to put Toronto up 5-2.
Casey Janssen was given a chance to get a three-run save. Janssen hasn't pitched in a save situation for over two weeks, and got two quick outs to start the ninth. He gave up a hit to Michael Bourn, but then struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the game.... but home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez disagreed, calling that third pitch a ball. It was very, very close:
In any case, that led to a Cabrera RBI-single, then after a lengthy at bat against Jason Kipnis, Janssen lost him on a walk, then induced a game-ending ground ball to Nick Swisher... but Munenori Kawaski fielded it, got too excited and threw it over the head of Edwin Encarnacion to make it a 5-4 game. Gibbons thought 26 pitches was enough for Janssen so he called for All-Star candidate Steve Delabar. Delabar came in and threw a single pitch to end the game for real, getting Brantley to fly out to Rasmus.
The many Blue Jays fans who made the trip down to Progressive Field made their presence known throughout the game, shouting and chanting and clapping to make it sound like a home game. Indians fans retorted with the staple "U-S-A! U-S-A!", and the Jays fans hit back with a few "WE'VE GOT HEALTHCARE!" chants. I would've gone with "WE'VE GOT KETCHUP CHIPS!" They probably didn't have a good time in game one and the first half of this game but they kept their energy up and the Blue Jays gave them something to cheer about tonight.
Jays of the Day! Munenori Kawasaki (+.362 WPA, the error didn't count), Bonifacio (+.340), Delabar (+.239), Rogers (+.163), Neil Wagner (+.133), and Dustin McGowan (+.106).
Suckage Jays: Edwin Encarnacion (-.161 WPA), and Jose Reyes (-.128). I'll give Brett Cecil (-.335) and Casey Janssen (-.200) half-suckages because of Reyes's non-play and Kawasaki's error. Cecil had a full suckage before @james_in_to made a good point to correct it.
R.A. Dickey goes tomorrow against Danny Salazar in a day game, scheduled for 12:05 pm. To end it off here is Kawasaki's post-game interview--his English seems to have really improved since we first met him.