It certainly wasn't the prettiest of wins, but the Blue Jays got the job done on Saturday afternoon against Tampa Bay to even the series. At least hopefully, as the game was played under protest from the top of 4th, and the win will be pending resolution by the league office.
With the score 2-1 and 1 out in the 4th, Mark Buehrle got Wil Myers to hit a ground ball to third, and beat it out for an infield single. Before Yunel Escobar saw a pitch, Buerhle caught Myers flat footed off first on a pick-off attempt, but Myers was called safe on a bang-bang play. Gibbons came out to challenge the play, but not before Buehrle (diligent worker that he is) had already got back on the mound and Escobar was in the box. Joe Maddon came out at this point to argue that it was too late to initiate a review, as the rules state:
[T]o be timely, a Manager must exercise his challenge (by verbal communication to the appropriate Umpire), or the Crew Chief must initiate Replay Review...before the commencement of the next play or pitch. .... For purposes of these Regulations, the next "play" shall commence when the pitcher is on the rubber preparing to start his delivery and the batter has entered the batter's box (unless the defensive team initiates an appeal play in which case any call made during the play prior to the appeal still may be subject to Replay Review).
Crew chief Bob Davidson dismissed Maddon's concerns, despite what would seem to be a pretty open-and-shut interpretation of the rules (Gregg Zaun drolly noted he's been ignoring rules for 20 years). On review, Myers was called out as he was tagged just before his fingers made it back to the bag, and Maddon indicated a protest. Escobar then struck out on three pitches to end the inning.
Since the Rays went on to lose the game, it seems likely that they will proceed with an official protest, which if upheld would mean the game would be replayed from the 4th inning. Will that happen? The official rules state:
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpires decision is in violation of these rules....Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting teams chances of winning the game.
On one hand, a plain reading of the rules makes it pretty clear it was too late to review the plate, and with the game eventually going to extras it's quite possible the reversal was outcome determinative. It reduced the Rays run expectancy by about 0.44 runs, and win expectancy by 5.3%.
On the other hand, upheld protests are quite rare, with the Giants' protest earlier this week the first upheld since 1986, and both those were regarding rain shortened games, not replaying games and wiping out on field results. The last time that happened was the famous Pine Tar game in 1983. MLB will likely want to avoid creating a precedent that could result in more protested-and-replayed game, especially since in the end the right call was made. It would seem somewhat perverse to order half a game to replayed because the right call was made. Finally, the reality is it's unlikely this game really affects the playoff race, and re-scheduling the replay would not be easy with 5 weeks remaining. So we'll see, but my guess is the result stands. Though at the very least, Balkin' Bob should face some league sanction for not seemingly properly applying the rules
That aside, it was still an interesting game. Mark Buerhle's start was a mix of being in complete control, and getting hit hard. He retired the first six batters on just 26 pitches, looking quite in control. The third inning went quite differently, starting with a leadoff single that was erased on a Jose Molina GIDP. For the second straight game, the Jays had trouble turning the double play, with Kawasaki bobbling the turn. Fortunately, it was Molina lightly jogging down the line and he still beat him by a mile, but with almost any other runner there would have been no twin killing.
Buehrle then gave up back-to-back singles to put runners at first and third, before Ben Zobrist laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single on which Buerhle and Valencia collided. After another botched ground ball to load the bases, Buerhle ended the inning to contain the damage after a 23 pitch inning. In the bottom of the inning, the Jays' bat came to life with some rare clutch hitting as Reyes cashed Valencia with a 2 out RBI double. Melky then followed it up with a single to score him and put the Jays out in front 2-1. It was essentially the only time the Jays got to Hellickson all game.
For the next three innings, Buerhle was back in control. He needed just 23 pitches to retire 9 batters, the Myers infield single being the only damage. He came out for the seventh at just 72 pitches, but after a single, fielder's choise and walk, yielded an RBI single to tie the game, and then a hard double to put runner at 2nd and 3rd with just 1 out, down 3-2. Gibby had seen enough and pulled Buerhle at just 86 pitches in favour of Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez came in and needed just 7 pitches to completely contain the damage, with a ground ball on the infield and a strike out.
In the bottom of the 7th, the Jays once again rallied back. Adam Lind led off with a deep fly ball that came up just short, but that was the end of the day for Hellickson. While the Jays failed to do much damage to him, they did succeed in running up his pitch count (starting with a 10 pitch leadoff AB by Reyes), and got to the bullpen with provided immediate dividends. Encarnacion greeted Brad Boxberger with a hard double, and then Navarro pulled a ball over the right field wall for the go-ahead home run. Rasmus followed that up with a double, but was stranded.
Sanchez came back out for the 8th and had a similarly easy time, inducing two fly balls to Rasmus sandwiched around a strikeout of Longoria on 3-2 99 MPH
knuckleball fastball in the dirt with crazy movement that made an all-star look like a minor leaguer.
Casey Janssen came in for the 9th for the save, but did not have his usual pinpoint command. A leadoff walk was followed by a one out single, bring James Loney to the plate. He drilled a ball into the LF corner, scoring Myers from first to tie the game. Luckily, Kiermaier made an aggressive turn around 3rd, slipped getting back, and Melky's throw behind him got him. Janssen got the last out, but was fortunate to have only got a blown save and not loss.
The Jays did nothing against Peralta in the 9th, and game went to extras. McGowan had a scoreless 10th, but did not look impressive at all, falling behind most batters and giving up a single and walk. Again, the Jays got the game tied to the bottom of the inning, but by the skin of their teeth.
Rasmus led off the bottom of the 10th, and with 2 strikes saw Longoria back up at 3rd. He gambled, and laid down a great bunt that he quite easily beat out. That brought Valencia, who is terrible against RHP, to face Peralta, a very good RHP. I personnally would like to have seen Francisco pinch hit, but Gibby opted for the bunt (with Kawasaki on deck). Unfortunately, Valencia made two terrible attempts at bunting to put himin a 0-2, and he then struck out. As did Kawasaki on a full count, but Rasmus was going and was able to steal second. That brought up Jose Reyes, who delivered his second clutch hit of the day, and the Jays walked it off.
Jays of the Day: Reyes (+0.449, 2-5 with the game winning hit and a 2 out hit to get the offence rolling), Sanchez (+0.277, for 5 critical outs), McGowan (+0.143, for a scoreless 10th, tenuous as it was), Navarro (+0.253, for the HR in the 7th), Rasmus (+0.105, for the bunt single and SB in the 10th), Melky (+0.097)
Suckage Jays: Buerhle (-0.213, though the start was better than the WPA), Janssen (-0.187, blown save), Kawasaki (-0.151, 0-4 with 2K). Valencia didn't have the number at -0.083, but he gets one for being unable to lay down the bunt in the 10th. A player at the back end of a MLB roster simply has to be able to do little things like that, especially when he has a huge flaw like, oh, not being able to hit righties. Bautista (-0.088) and Lind (-0.094) were close but both hit balls hard so are spared.
Basically today half the players in the game did very well, and half did quite poorly. The rubber match is tomorrow at 1:07 with Drew Hutchison taking on
Jaden Smith Chris Archer.
UPDATE (Minor Leaguer)
After the game, we were told that the Blue Jays will be selecting the contract of Sergio Santos before Sunday's game. A corresponding team move has not been announced.