A week and one day ago the Blue Jays were walked off in ignominious fashion, when Tyler Naquin hit a drive off the wall that Michael Saunders totally missed. Naquin ended up rounding the bases as Melvin Upton Jr. failed to back the play up, and then compounded that mistake by failing to get the ball in quickly.
Today, the tables turned, and it was only appropriate that Upton got a little redemption. After a Kevin Pillar double leading off the 8th, Upton came up with the tying run on and none out. He flared a ball to right field that rookie Max Kepler charged hard and dove to try and catch. He whiffed, and the ball dribbled towards the wall as Pillar scored, Upton turned on the burners, and Kepler and CF Eddie Rosario pursued. Kepler got there first, and in his haste kicked it away, allowing Upton the little league home run without the ball ever making it back to the infield. It was officially a triple and an error, but either way the Jays had their first lead of the game.
Marcus Stroman got the start, and was quite snakebitten in allowing 5 runs over 6 innings. A couple bouncers through the infield sandwiched around a Josh Thole passed ball put the Jays down 1-0 in the 1st. He worked around a couple more bouncing hits in the 3rd, but the 4th inning got him. A leadoff walk was followed by (what else?) a ground ball single to right, a RBI bouncer through the 5-6 hole, and then a bouncer down the first base line for a 2 RBI double to make it 4-0. Brian Dozier added his third hit on a hard hit double to make it 5-0.
The bats tried to get the Jays back into it. With two out in the bottom of the 4th, Saunders doubled home Edwin Encarnacion who had walked. Stroman held the line for the next two shutout innings, retiring the last hitters he faced after a double by Kepler. The top of the lineup came back up in the 6th, and after Josh Donaldson walked, Edwin Encarnacion took the parrot for its 36th walk of the year with a two run shot close the gap to 5-3. Troy Tulowitzki singled, but a Saunders double play ended the threat.
Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn't hold it. Bo Schultz relieved Stroman, and had an inning sort of typical of his season. He got a quick two outs, had Kepler down 0-2, but ended up walking him on a borderline pitch. Trevor Plouffe made him pay with a line drive just barely over the fence in right field to reverse the halving the lead.
But onwards marched the bats in the bottom of the 7th. Kevin Pillar lead off with a single, Devon Travis walked, and Thole tried his darndest with a long at-bat that ran Ervin Santana past 100 pitches before making the 2nd out. Santana looked done, but Paul Molitor left him in to face Bautista. He walked to load the bases, and bring the tying run to the plate in the form of the reigning MVP.
Molitor brought in Ryan Pressley in a very tight spot, and the big bats made him pay. Donaldson lashed a 2 RBI double to the RCF gap, and Encarnacion stung a ball up the third base line that went for a single to bring it to 7-6. The rally stopped there, for an inning at least.
Jason Grilli pitched the 8th, not the easiest inning, but a scoreless one nonetheless to hold the line with a lot of grunting, sweating, and fist pumping. Staked to the lead, Roberto Osuna slammed the door in a perfect 9th.
All in all, a roller coaster ride that ended with a much needed W:
Jays of the Day: Upton (+0.437, all on the back of the 8th inning); Encarnacion (+0.253 WPA, 2/3, HR, BB); Donaldson (+0.151, 1/2, 2BB); Pillar (+0.110, 2/4, 2B). Also Osuna (+0.161), the lone pitcher. As a sidenote, that Osuna gets over 3x the WPA as Grilli for doing the same thing, just an inning later and up one rather than down one shows the limitations of WPA. We'll also give an honorary one to Paul Molitor for questionable late inning pitching decisions.
Suckage: Stroman (-0.216) and Schultz (-0.112) on the pitching side; Saunders (-0.117, 1/4) and Tulo (-0.110, 1/4) on the hitting side.
Tomorrow, the Jays look to complete the sweep with R.A. Dickey facing Kyle Gibson.