The game of baseball is largely predicated on all-mighty statistics – who does what to whom and how frequently or successfully.
Sometimes, as the Toronto Blue Jays illustrated in Wednesday’s rubber game of the three-game set against the Texas Rangers, you can heave all those numbers out the window.
The Rangers sent Matt Harrison to the mound, a left-handed pitcher who has been eating the lunch of left-handed hitters all season.
The 26-year-old went into the game with a .094 opponents batting average against left-handed batters, tops in the American League, having allowed a measly three hits in 32 at-bats.
Toronto manager John Farrell dutifully stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters to try to offset this, removing from the starting lineup first baseman Adam Lind and centre fielder Colby Rasmus, who were a combined 10-for-46 against southpaws this season.
So what happens?
Kelly Johnson, a left-handed hitter, swats a two-run home run off Harrison that helped ignite the offence as the Blue Jays (14-11) carved out an 11-5 victory over the Rangers (17-8) before a crowd of 25,123 who enjoyed outside baseball at Rogers Centre where the roof was open.
More important, the victory helped restore a measure of confidence the Jays. Toronto took two of three from Texas, which rolled into town with baseball’s best record. However, the series win should come with a big asterisk as the Rangers played without star outfielder Josh Hamilton, who is recovering from a bad back.
Johnson’s homer was his second in as many games and sixth of the season and it came after he was installed into the leadoff spot by manager John Farrell for the first time this season. Farrell couldn’t help but notice his impressive .376 batting average.
His homer came in the third inning and moved Toronto in front to stay, 2-1.
“Just trying to be boring, doing the same thing every day,” Johnson joshed about hitting back-to-back homers for the second time this season. “It’s just trying not to be too high or too low.
“Our time will come offensively. We’ll have a big month or a big stretch that’s going to carry us. So far the starting pitching’s putting us right there.”
Starter Ricky Romero, 4-0, was the beneficiary of an 11-hit Toronto attack, grinding it out through eight innings in which he allowed five runs off six hits.
Romero wasn’t as sharp as he has been, walking the bases loaded to begin the fifth inning after Toronto had scored six in the fourth to take an 8-1 stranglehold.
The Rangers scored four runs that inning before Romero righted himself and didn’t allow any runs, or hits, the next three innings.
Toronto starters have now worked at least five innings for the 27th consecutive time dating to Sept. 27 of last year, a remarkable feat.
Yunel Escobar, who has struggled with the bat most of the season and went into the game with a .257 on-base percentage, was dropped to No. 2 in the batting order.
It was a hunch that paid off as not only did Johnson get on twice and scored on each occasion but Escobar was also productive, going 3-for-5, including a three-run triple in the fourth inning when the Blue Jays broke the game open.
“Eleven runs difference today ... so I guess we’ll stay with it,” Johnson said.
And Farrell wisely left Edwin Encarnacion alone.
Encarnacion belted a home run, his fifth in his past six games and ninth of the season, a three-run shot in the sixth as the Blue Jays received good production throughout the order.
Rajai Davis, who started in centre field, came out after the fourth inning after suffering a strained left hip flexor. The Jay are listing him as day-to-day.