If the Toronto Blue Jays are ever going to get hot and make a concerted run for that second American League wild-card playoff berth, it might as well begin with the Boston Red Sox.
Let’s face it, Toronto sports fans are a jaded group with long memories. The spectacle of manager John Farrell jumping ship two seasons ago, ditching his job in Toronto for his “dream” manager’s gig with the Red Sox, still resonates like a finger to the eye for many a Blue Jay loyalist.
Now that the Red Sox have fallen off their World Series perch of a year ago and are wallowing in last place in the AL East while the Blue Jays are, well, just wallowing, wouldn’t a nice three-game sweep help soothe the jagged nerves of Toronto’s baseball faithful?
A sweep is still in the cards, just not for the Blue Jays, who took their fans on a wild ride Monday night at Rogers Centre before surrendering 4-3 to the Red Sox in the first of a three-game series pitting the two old rivals against each other.
After being thoroughly outclassed by Boston starter Clay Buchholz to the tune of just two hits over eight innings, the Blue Jays limped into the ninth inning trailing 3-0.
There the magic ended for Buchholz, who allowed singles to Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera before issuing a walk to Jose Bautista to load the bases.
That spelled the end of Buchholz. Closer Koji Uehara came into face Adam Lind, who hit into a fielder’s choice that scored the first Toronto run.
Up stepped Edwin Encarnacion and he tied the game with a drive to left field that crashed off the wall for a double that scored two more to force the game into extras.
But Boston would win it in the 10th when trade deadline addition Yoenis Cespedes stroked a line drive off Toronto rookie reliever Aaron Sanchez just over the outstretched glove of diving Toronto second baseman Munenori Kawasaki that cashed Brock Holt with the winning run from third.
And the Blue Jays are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their second-half swoon will be one of epic proportions, losing for the 11th time in their last 16 contests. The Blue Jays are now 6-15 for August.
The Red Sox came into the game having fallen into a huge abyss, losing eight straight and dropping to 18 games under .500.
To make matters worse for the Red Sox, they had to play without the services of slugger David Ortiz, too sore to play after fouling a pitch off his right foot during Sunday’s game against Seattle.
Rogers Centre is like a big, old comfy chair to Big Papi, who has knocked 37 home runs at the stadium over the years, more than any other visiting player.
Prior to the game, Jose Bautista and his untimely ejection from Sunday’s game in the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays by home plate umpire Bill Welke for disagreeing with a called third strike continued to be a hot topic of discussion.
The brouhaha prompted Toronto manager John Gibbons to afterward voice his displeasure with his star player, stating that regardless of what words were exchanged, Bautista’s priority is to remain in the game.
“I did read his quotes and I can understand his frustrations – and I had the same frustrations,” Bautista said. “I didn’t want to get ejected, but it happened.”
Heading into the Boston series, the Blue Jays once rosy playoff picture has been thrown into disarray by a dismal second half.
Thrown into this fray was J.A. Happ, the Toronto starter who had not recorded a win since July 22 and had lost three in a row. You can now make that four.
Happ (8-9) was cruising early on, his lively fastball keeping the Boston hitters off-balance.
Bautista made a nice running catch off a sinking liner in right that ended the first inning on a high for the Blue Jays.
In the top of the third, Toronto leftfielder Melky Cabrera, about the only Blue Jays player worth watching these days, continued to prove he is the team’s most valuable player this season, chipping in with a sterling double-play.
With runners at first and second and nobody out, Dustin Pedroia lifted a long fly ball that Cabrera tracked down at the warning track.
Christian Vazquez decided to challenge Cabrera’s arm and tagged up at second only to be thrown out at third by at least a stride after the Toronto outfielder unleased a perfect one-hop strike to the bag.
For Cabrera, it was his 12th outfield assist of the season, the third highest total in Major League Baseball this season.
Happ’s downfall came in the fifth when Mookie Betts crunched a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left for a 1-0 Boston lead.
After Happ walked Vazquez, Pedroia followed suit with a two-run homer to left that increased Boston’s lead to 3-0.