The stars seemed to be aligning for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. A fabulous start by Marcus Stroman against the visiting Detroit Tigers. And then a ninth inning rally that saw the Blue Jays tie the game on a Dioner Navarro single and then load the bases with just one out. It looked like a sure thing. A simple fly ball would win the game and start a needed celebration after recent disappointments.
The writers at Tip of the Tower were almost giddy, planning story ideas, and celebrating the impending victory. We should have known better.
Juan Francisco came up and popped up the first pitch. It was probably the worst at-bat by a Blue Jays batter this season given the circumstances. Munenori Kawasaki then grounded out to end the inning and the rally was dead.
But those stars really were aligning. And, as it turned out, the celebration was just delayed. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Nolan Reimold ripped a double to the gap in left centre field, plating Danny Valencia, who scored from first, after an infield single, giving the Blue Jays a thrilling 3-2 victory. Jubilation and redemption at the Rogers Centre.
Marcus Stroman was nothing short of brilliant. He threw 109 pitches, giving up four hits and only two runs in nine innings. Stroman mixed his pitches well, and had the Blue Jays pulled off the win in the bottom of the ninth inning, it would have been the rookie’s first complete game.
Stroman’s outing saw him go toe-to-toe with Max Scherzer, one of the Tigers’ aces. Scherzer was equally brilliant, holding the Blue Jays to just one run, on four hits, over his eight innings of work.
It is one win. But it is a huge win, for a number of reasons. The New York Yankees lost on Saturday, so the Blue Jays regain a share of second place in the American League East. More importantly, after a devastating loss on Friday night – coughing up a 4-2 ninth inning lead to lose 5-4 to these same Tigers – the Blue Jays showed the resilience that playoff contenders need to have. This team doesn’t quit, and no matter how frustrating they may be to watch sometimes and that deserves our appreciation.
Tomorrow, the Blue Jays will send Mark Buehrle to the hill to face David Price. Price is traditionally tough on the Blue Jays, but maybe the stars will remain in formation long enough to get a series win.