The Toronto Blue Jays could not have asked for a better scenario than this one.
With a capacity gathering of 46,321 on hand at Rogers Centre Monday night to witness the regular season home-opener, the heavy hitting Adam Lind was at the plate with the Chicago White Sox clinging to a one-run lead.
The young slugger had already accounted for three of the Toronto runs earlier in the contest and the joint was jumping for more.
But it was not to be as Lind swung through a nasty slider delivered by Chicago reliever Bobby Jenks for the third out that secured the White Sox (3-4) an 8-7 victory and left the Blue Jays (5-2) reeling after suffering just their second loss in seven outings.
"We battled all the way until the end," said Toronto catcher John Buck, who hit his first home run in a Blue Jays uniform, a two-run shot in the second inning. "So far this team doesn't give up. We keep doing that it will be alright.
"But we want to keep these to a minimum."
The Blue Jays are back in town after experiencing some unexpected success on the road to begin the season, taking five of six against Texas and Baltimore before heading back to Canada on a five-game win streak to unveil their product in person to the home-town fans.
And the players were certainly looking forward to showing to a large gathering pumped up for opening day that their early strong showing is nothing to be sneered at.
"We don't see 50,000 here at SkyDome very often," Jason Frasor, the newly-minted closer, said before the game, referring to Rogers Centre by its old handle. "That's what makes it special. We're playing good ball, that's what makes it more fun.
"And I think we're all looking forward to seeing this place packed and trying to continue this little hot streak we're on."
These kind of 40,000-plus gatherings used to be commonplace for the American League club back in the early 1990s when the Blue Jays were building toward their two World Series titles in '92 and '93.
Last season Toronto only averaged 23,162 per game and the organization realizes it might be a struggle to even approach those modest totals this year.
"Opening day is special," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston. "First of all, you won't get booed like you do in Baltimore. Second of all, the fans are on your side that's for sure. And we get to make that last out.
"Most of all, it's to see this place full and hope we can get it back to that every night like it used to be."
Like most home openers for fans who have not yet had the opportunity to sour on the home side, the gathering was festive in nature.
They cheered lustily when Buck hit his home run that tied the game at 2-2 and leapt to their feet in wild celebration when Vernon Wells responded in kind in the four-run third, an outburst that moved Toronto in front 6-4.
For Wells, it was his fifth home run of the campaign, a level he did not reach until his 30th game last season.
And the fans booed relentlessly every time Alex Rios, the former Jay wunderkind who the Jays unloaded on waivers in August to the White Sox, was involved in the play.
Rios, who started in centre field for Chicago and said it felt "weird" being in the visitors dugout in Toronto, collected three hits against his old team.
Things started to go horribly wrong for the Blue Jays in the ninth, clinging to a 7-6 lead.
Frasor was sent to the mound to preserve the lead and he promptly split the plate with a fastball that Mark Teahen delivered over the wall in left field that knotted the score.
"0-2 heater right down the middle," lamented Frasor. "Anything but that."
Frasor is now 0-for-5 on the year in first batter efficiency, not a good sign for a closer.
"If you're going to save the game you have to get the first guy," Gaston said.
The knock-out punch was delivered by Chicago in the 11th with Kotsay once again stepping up and delivering a triple to the gap in right-centre that scored pinch-runner Omar Vizquel all the way from first.Report Typo/Error
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