When Travis Snider was summoned from the minor leagues to the Toronto Blue Jays late last week, it was primarily on the strength of his power hitting and solid defensive play in left field.
His small-ball capabilities didn’t factor into the equation.
So it was a bit of a surprise when Snider, with runners in scoring position and one out in the sixth inning Thursday against the Oakland Athletics, laid down a perfect safety squeeze bunt.
It was the key moment that resulted in two runs and allowed the battered Blue Jays (49-49) to salvage the final game of the series, earning a 10-4 comeback win over Oakland (53-45) in front of a healthy gathering of 39,003.
The victory was like a salve for the Blue Jays battered psyche, the squad still feeling the aftershocks of Wednesday’s 16-0 shellacking at the hands of the A’s and the mound meltdown by starting pitcher Ricky Romero.
“You can quickly turn the page on a tough day, that’s the beauty of this game,” Toronto manager John Farrell said.
Thursday’s victory also continued to showcase the talents of Snider, the on-again, off-again star of the future, whose performance, especially at the plate, has been a welcome aspect since his recall from Triple-A Las Vegas.
With two hits Thursday, Snider has now collected hits in five of the six games since rejoining the big club, including two home runs.
Hitting from the lower third of the batting order in his first five games, Snider was hitting out of the five-hole for the first time Thursday in the absence of J.P. Arencibia (broken hand) and the result was two RBIs.
“One through nine, I don’t care where I’m at,” Snider said. “I’m not going to read [anything] into that kind of stuff.
“When you get an opportunity to hit in the middle of the order with guys on base, and hitting behind a hitter like Edwin Encarnacion, it definitely comes with great responsibility that I look forward to.”
Encarnacion belted a huge three-run blast in the fourth inning that erased a 3-0 Oakland lead.
It was his 27th home run of the year, a career high.
With the Blue Jays trailing 4-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Snider stepped into the batter’s box with runners at second and third and one out and promptly laid down a perfectly executed bunt as ordered by Farrell from the dugout.
The ball scooted to the left side of the diamond and allowed Colby Rasmus to scamper home from third to tie the game.
Oakland pitcher Tommy Milone only compounded things when his rushed throw to first base was off the mark and struck Snider as he was running. The error allowed Brett Lawrie, on the move from second, to cross with the go-ahead run.
Oakland soon unravelled, giving up another run in the seventh (a home run by Kelly Johnson), and then four more in the eighth (including Snider’s run-scoring double to the opposite field).
“I think for the most part, he’s in a better position at the plate fundamentally,” Farrell said. “He’s not lunging quite as much as we’ve seen in the past.
“And the fact that he’s got his legs underneath him allows him to handle some left-handed pitching with a little bit better consistency than we’ve seen before.”