With two out and one on for the Tampa Bay Rays in the top of the third inning of a tie ballgame, James Loney drove the ball to deep centre field that had danger tattooed all over it.
It sounded like a home run to most inside Rogers Centre, except for Anthony Gose, the young Toronto Blue Jays’ centerfielder who can cover vast tracts of real estate with astonishing ease.
In no time flat, Gose was back at the warning track gazing upwards and he timed his leap perfectly to make a tough catch look easy at the top of the wall.
Liam Hendriks, the Blue Jays starting pitcher, watched it all unfold from in front of the pitcher’s mound and he thrust his right hand in the air, fist clenched, in celebration of Gose’s display of athleticism.
And Gose gave them more to celebrate in the ninth, his bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning proving to be the difference in a thrilling 3-2 Toronto win.
And the juggernaut keeps on rolling for the Blue Jays (32-22), who have now won nine in a row and continue to enjoy the penthouse perch in the American League East standing.
After Dioner Navarro rapped a leadoff single in a 2-2 ballgame in the bottom of the ninth, Kevin Pillar was sent in to pinch run.
Gose came to the plate and he dropped down a perfect bunt and blazed down the first base line.
The hurried throw from Tampa reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo was wide of first base for a throwing error and drifted into right field, allowing Pillar to scamper all the way around the bases for the thrilling winning run.
As good as Gose’s defensive play was in the third, Melky Cabrera’s wall-crashing effort in left field to rob Evan Longoria of a leadoff hit in the top of the sixth inning was even more impressive.
The next batter was Loney who once again proved unlucky as his grounder to the right side appeared a certain hit were it not for some extraordinary range exhibited by Brett Lawrie.
Lawrie, who started at second base, motored far to his left and then dove to knock the ball down. He tracked it down in time to make the throw to a stretching Edwin Encarnacion at first base to record another satisfying Toronto out.
There is no known timetable for the return of Colby Rasmus, Toronto’s starting centre fielder who went on the disabled list on May 13 with a strained right hamstring, an injury that necessitated Gose getting called up from Triple-A.
Watching Gose perform over the last two weeks it has become clear to many that the 23-year-old is a better player than Rasmus, certainly defensively.
And the Blue Jays will have a difficult decision to make once Rasmus is ready to return on what to do with Gose as his solid play has clearly demonstrated that he deserves to remain on the big league roster.
So far, Toronto manager John Gibbons is playing it coy on what his future plans might be when it comes to Gose once the roster becomes overcrowded.
But he is not hesitant to consistently sing the praises of the player when asked, saying Gose has contributed almost on a daily basis for the Blue Jays during their current tear to the top of the American League East standing.
Defensively, Gibbons said he believes Gose has few peers in center-field throughout Major League Baseball, except perhaps Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.
Offensively, Gose has matured at the plate and his great speed makes him a threat every time up to bunt.
Gose had a solid single in three at bats last night, his average a respectable .270 in the 17 games he has played since his call-up. Gose has also stolen two bases and came into the contest with a .405 on base percentage.
Rasmus was hitting just .222 at the time of his injury through 37 games, with a .266 OBP.
The only clear advantage Rasmus has over Gose is in the power department with nine home runs.
Gibbons told reporters before Wednesday’s game relief pitcher Sergio Santos, who was placed on the disabled list on May 10 with right elbow tenderness, suffered a “setback” during long toss on Tuesday.
The Blue Jays hope it is not serious and Santos will give things a rest over the next couple of days, probably not trying to throw again until Sunday at the earliest.
The Blue Jays rolled to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with Encarnacion once again providing the offensive punch, his soft liner to centre cashing in both runs.
Over his last 13 games, Encarnacion has driven home 17.
Tampa came right back to tie it in the top of the second on a two-run home run by Wil Myers.
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