Standing at the plate in the first inning, Adam Lind represented a Toronto batting order that’s admitted to being too anxious through the first quarter of the season, and a team desperate for a win against an American League East opponent to kick off a nine-game homestand. On the mound, 23-year-old Jake Odorizzi was making just his third major-league start and his first for Tampa Bay, a team that on Sunday had won for the ninth time in 11 games by sweeping the Baltimore Orioles.
Called up Monday from Triple-A Durham, Odorizzi would throw a dozen pitches before Lind hit a sacrifice fly, finishing a standoff that gave the Blue Jays an instant lift after their bats had gone dormant in a pair of debilitating losses to the New York Yankees on Friday and Saturday.
Edwin Encarnacion would ultimately break a tie with a three-run double in the seventh inning before a crowd of 29,885 on a splendid Victoria Day afternoon at Rogers Centre, producing a 7-5 victory.
The last-place Jays play three games against Tampa Bay (23-21) and four against Baltimore on this nine-game homestand, an opportunity to make up ground in the AL East. They’ll go nearly a full month before playing in the AL East again.
In the first inning, Encarnacion had singled Melky Cabrera to third base to bring up Lind in the cleanup slot, with one out. Little did he realize what he would be in for.
On the first full-count pitch, Encarnacion took off for second on an attempted steal, only for Lind to foul the ball down the third-base line, forcing Encanacion to trot back to first. That scenario would occur six times in all – Encarnacion breaking for the bag, Lind wasting a pitch.
“Yeah a little tired,” Encarnacion said. “Five, six sprints. I don’t feel really good.”
“I told him I was sorry,” Lind said, with a laugh. “All of us have been in that situation at least once or twice.”
Starting for injured Cy Young Award winner David Price, Odorizzi tried to pick Encarnacion off at first base following Lind’s first foul-back. Back to Lind.
“Anybody in my situation I think would be really excited,” Odorizzi told reporters. “It’s not about throwing hard or anything like that, you’ve got to hit your spots early on. Starting off I just couldn’t get in a groove.”
Lind fouled three pitches into the third-base stands, another behind home plate, the fifth on the ground by the Rays’ first-base dugout.
“He hasn’t made very many starts in the big leagues so he probably wasn’t too tired,” Lind said. “He’d given me a few pitches to hit so I’m like, let’s go before he throws me a really good pitch.”
Finally, he lofted a fastball into fair territory to left fielder Sam Fuld as Encarnacion broke for yet the seventh time. Encarnacion rounded the second-base bag before putting on the brakes due to the catch, and sprinted hard back to first as the throw came into the infield. Tampa shortstop Yunel Escobar attempted to get Encarnacion at first but threw the ball into the dugout. A fatigued Encarnacion got awarded two bases, so he trotted to second and walked the rest of the way.
Brett Lawrie had the advantage of watching Lind’s battle up-close and personal from the on-deck circle.
“What an at-bat,” Lawrie said. “It was one of the better at-bats I’ve seen all year, just fighting pitches off and fighting and fighting. [Odorizzi] was pounding the strike zone and he’s getting tired out there too, probably thinking, geez, when’s he going to put one in play?”
Lawrie, hitting .191 at the time, drove a two-strike pitch into the right-centre-field gap to bring in Encarnacion for a 2-0 lead. In 44 games, the Jays have taken the first lead 18 times, and their record is 12-6 on those occasions compared with 18-26 overall.
With the game tied at three apiece in the seventh inning, Josh Lueke (0-1) gave up three walks and Encarnacion’s two-out double into the left-field corner to take the loss. Munenori Kawasaki’s run-scoring triple in the eighth provided insurance, for a 7-3 lead.
Toronto starter R.A. Dickey (4-5) worked eight innings at the Rogers Centre with the roof open, allowing four hits and the three runs, only two of which were earned.