Today’s early afternoon matinee between the Blue Jays and Rays was mostly a sleepy affair early on, but when push came to shove, the bats showed up. Case in point, the two teams combined for 22 hits, but nine of them went for extra bases. Of course, it was two little ground ball hits that made the difference.
The Jays took an early 2-0 lead early and Toronto starter Brett Cecil was shutting out the Rays through four innings. In the fifth, Tampa Bay got a couple runners on for Evan Longoria. He finally delivered with a go-ahead home run, this one a no-doubter to left.
It looked for a while that Wade Davis would make the one run lead stand up. He pitched into the eighth, but eventually got burned by a solo homer from Jose Bautista. That’s going to happen and certainly shouldn’t mar what was a very strong performance, especially considering a very rough start. The first three men reached to load the bases. Davis allowed an RBI single, but then got out of the jam with only one more run scoring thanks to a double play.
Bautista’s blast just signaled the start of the fun for the game was far from over.
The game reached extra innings where the Colby Rasmus put the Blue Jays on top with an RBI double. Undaunted, Desmond Jennings tied it in the bottom half of the tenth with a homer off of Toronto closer Jon Rauch. The Jays retook the lead in the eleventh when Jose Molina (of all people) tripled home two on a drive over B.J. Upton‘s head.
Upton started the eleventh with a double to center against Rauch who was trying to protect his second lead of the game. B.J. eventually scored to draw the Rays within 6-5.
Earlier, in the ninth, with Sam Fuld representing the winning run, Joe Maddon stuck with Kelly Shoppach who flied out. In the eleventh, Casey Kotchman was on second this time with run that mattered, but Joe decided to go with Robinson Chirinos instead of the free-swinging Shoppach. Chirinos delivered with a roller up the middle that was just fast enough to sneak through the infield and just slow enough to allow the slow-footed Kotchman to score. Perhaps Maddon didn’t want to use up his bench too soon. Chirinos was the last available position player by the time he came up.
After a Jennings double, Johnny Damon was intentionally walked to get to Longoria (who would have guessed managers would do that before the year?). Longoria almost beat out an infield hit to win the game, but his dive into first (instead of just running through the bag) probably kept the game tied.
In the twelfth, Upton got it started again. This time a little flare to right dropped just fair and went toward the bullpen. Upton flew around the bases toward third and was safe easily with a triple. Two intentional walks followed and after an Elliot Johnson strikeout, it the Rays looked to avenge their previous failures with the bases loaded. Chirinos came through with another seeing-eye single to end the marathon. It was a great win for the Rays who improbably erased three different leads, two of them in extra innings. Maddon also used 20 players and only had his starting pitchers left.
Players of the Game: Who to pick here? Longoria had a clutch homer early. Davis pitched very well, and Kotchman reached base five times. However, Upton and Chirinos deserve this player of the game. I’m hoping Robinson starts getting more playing time in the near future.