If the Blue Jays go on to win this division, there will be certain games you look back on as key moments in the season that propelled them to October baseball. Perhaps some fans will point to the 3-2 win in extra innings in Minnesota that sparked an 11-3 run of games after the Jays hit their low water mark of the season at 19-23 in mid May. Others may look at that wild 10-9 victory on a crazy Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre when the Jays scored six times in the last two innings to overcome an 8-4 deficit. Both are great nominations, but make sure you also don't forget about what the Jays did in New York tonight.
In the boxscore, it's a six run victory where Toronto didn't even have to use Roberto Osuna, but anyone who watched this game in its entirety knows the Jays stole it.
Early on, this looked like an easy Yankee win. Marco Estrada turned in his worst performance of the year, allowing five runs in four innings, all coming on home runs. The last of which came in the form of a three run shot off the bat of Gary Sanchez giving New York a 5-0 lead as rain and lightning began to fill the western sky.
It was the second homer of the night for Sanchez, and both came off of Estrada's change up; which is surprising because Estrada had only allowed four home runs all year on his change up before this game. Estrada's Game Score for the night came in at 23, a full 19 markers lower than his previous worst outing of 42 back in April against Boston. Of all the starters, I'd be concerned about the six man rotation impacting him the most since he relies on the "feel" of his off speed pitches while mixing and matching.We'll have to keep a close eye on Estrada going forward.
Meanwhile, the Jays had no answer for Michael Pineda who held them scoreless on 68 pitches through five innings when the skies opened up. While Pineda has an ugly 4.89 ERA on the season, he's been very good for the last two and a half months, holding opponents to a .284 on base percentage since the start of June. It's safe to say he had plenty left in the tank before the Yankees had to pull him following the delay that lasted a little over 40 minutes.
Once the rain cleared, everything changed. The Jays could have easily phoned it in being down by such a large margin while failing to score a single run for 14 innings in the series to that point, but they clearly had other ideas. With a second straight disappointing loss staring them right in the face, they came together as an offensive unit and produced one of the most satisfying victories of the year.
It all started in the sixth inning with a double off the bat of Devon Travis. He quickly came around to score on a Josh Donaldson infield single that coupled with a Chase Headley error on a wild throw to first. For a moment, it appeared the Jays rally would be short lived as both Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders struck out, but then Troy Tulowitzki came to the plate and turned it into a manageable three run game with a classic "Yankee Stadium" home run to right. Aaron Judge made a leaping attempt to grab the ball that just cleared the wall, but his jump was Tu-Lo.
Russell Martin then followed that up with a solo shot to center that continued to turn the tide in favor of Toronto.
The Jays would strike again in the eighth, but not before some wonderful relief work by Scott Feldman who tossed 57 pitches and struck out five batters including the last four he faced. He did allow a run in the fifth which put the Yankees on top 6-0, but his scoreless work in the sixth and seventh after the offense put a huge dent in New York's lead helped lay the foundation for a monstrous comeback.
Then came that beautiful top of the eighth inning. It lasted 36 minutes (almost as long as the rain delay), and left the Yankees totally shell-shocked. Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve combined to allow eight runs on five hits, three walks, a hit batter and two home runs in only a third of an inning. They faced ten batters and only got one of them out (LOL Yankees!!!). By the time it was over, the Jays had scored eight runs in the inning (a snowman after the rain delay) and were up by the half dozen they trailed earlier in the evening.
Here's some the highlights from that inning of elation:
- Edwin Encarnacion knocked in the first two runs with a no-doubter to left that tied the game 6-6. This combined with an RBI ground out later in the frame extended his league leading RBI total to 100 on the season.
- Troy Tulowitzki came up with a one out single to left in a tied game as part of his four-hit night which drove his OPS on the season north of .800. That's one heck of a comeback when you consider it stood at .569 back on May 9.
- Russell Martin launched a two run bomb to right for his second homer of the night that put the Jays on top 8-6. This home run also marked just the fourth time in major league history that both starting catchers hit multiple home runs in the same game.
- Josh Donaldson walked .... TWICE IN THE SAME INNING (including a 12 pitch plate appearance that got the whole thing started)!
- The Jays sent 13 men to the plate and scored eight runs in one inning after only scoring a combined 17 runs in their previous eight road games.
What a win! The victory vaults the Jays back into first place alone as the Orioles lost 5-3 tonight to the Red Sox in Baltimore. While the Jays are a game ahead of both teams, all three clubs are now tied in the loss column with 52 apiece (the Jays have two more off days between now and the end of the season than their closest competitors).
Don't get caught off guard tomorrow as the game will be on early (1:05 p.m. start) with the Jays trying to take the series and improve to 9-3 on the year against the Yankees. J.A. Happ gets the start against CC Sabathia.
Jays of the Day: Russell Martin (.342) with two big home runs, Edwin Encarnacion (.305) with the game tying blast, Troy Tulowitzki (.157) with four hits on the night including the team's first home run, and I'm also giving one to Mother Nature for that rain delay that knocked Michael Pineda out of the game. Scott Feldman also deserves some sort of nod for his relief work that made sure the momentum stayed in the Jays' dugout once the rally started.
Jays Suckage: Marco Estrada (-.233) for obvious reasons, and Michael Saunders (-.111) who didn't reach base in his four highest leverage at bats.
Here's the game graph, which features one of the most majestic cliffs I've seen in a while: