The decibel level inside Rogers Centre is almost otherworldly as Toronto starter Marcus Stroman takes the mound and it gets even louder when Baltimore leadoff hitter Adam Jones flies out to centre on the first pitch. Stroman retires the side in order on 12 pitches. Baltimore starter Chris Tillman, doing his best to ignore the catcalls from the stands, also needs just 12 throws to mow down the first three Blue Jays batters.
Ezequiel Carrera, starting in left field for Toronto, makes a nice running grab in foul territory on a long fly off the bat of Matt Wieters. Stroman then does a bit of a strut off the mound after striking out Chris Davis on a nasty slider for the third Baltimore out. Jose Bautista increases the excitement level by stroking a 3-1 Tillman pitch deep to left for a home run, giving the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. Bautista, all business, quickly rounds the bases while fans twirl their rally towels in the stands.
Stroman throws another perfect inning with two strikeouts; for the third out, J.J. Hardy lunges weakly at an 0-2 offering that is well off the plate. Tillman regroups nicely for the Orioles, retiring the Blue Jays on a groundout, a strikeout, and a meekly stroked fly ball to right.
Stroman is perfect no more, allowing a leadoff single the other way to Jones, who the goes to second on a Hyun Soo Kim groundout. Toronto’s Kevin Pillar makes a sensational catch in centre field on a line drive to the gap by Manny Machado, a play that Stroman applauds. But the buoyant mood in Rogers Centre quickly turns dour when Mark Trumbo belts a first-pitch Stroman fastball for a two-run home run that vaults Baltimore in front 2-1. The Blue Jays could only respond with a two-out, four-pitch walk by Bautista, who was left stranded on a Russell Martin groundout.
It’s Troy Tulowitzki’s turn to flash some terrific defence for Toronto, diving deep in the hole at shortstop to snare a hot grounder by Jonathan Schoop. Tulowitzki then quickly leaps to his feet and makes a perfect throw to first to record the second Baltimore out. For Toronto, Michael Saunders strokes a one-out, ground-rule double down the left-field line. Saunders only gets to third, having to hold up in case the speedy Michael Bourn catches the line-hugging drive to right off the bat of Pillar that also falls in for a double. And there is joy in Hogtown when Carrera then flares a hit into centre that scores Saunders with the tying run, chasing Tillman from the game.
Things get interesting when Stroman allows a two-out single by Machado. That brings Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker out to the mound for a little chat with his pitcher – Trumbo and his 47-home-run bat are due up. Whatever Walker says, Stroman heeds, getting Trumbo to ground out weakly to second. With Mychal Givens now pitching in relief of Tillman, Toronto bows meekly in the bottom half of the inning, with Josh Donaldson (strikeout), Edwin Encarnacion (groundout) and Bautista (strikeout looking) bowing out one-two-three.
With Brett Cecil now on the mound, there is more scintillating defence from the Blue Jays as Donaldson makes a barehanded grab on a nubber by Wieters. Donaldson makes a running throw across to first where Encarnacion picks it out of the dirt to record the out. In Toronto’s half, Melvin Upton Jr. lifts a two-out fly to the warning track in left, and Hyun Soo Kim makes the catch despite a numbskull in the stands who tosses a can in an apparent attempt at distraction.
Jason Grilli, the new pitcher for Toronto, smartly retired the side in order, while Brad Brach, now throwing for Baltimore, allows a one-out single to right by Carrera. But he’s erased by a double-play.
No sense in holding back in a winner-take-all affair. Toronto calls upon closer Roberto Osuna in a tied ballgame, and he comes through, retiring Machado, Trumbo and Wieters. In the bottom of the ninth, with the fans standing and chanting “JD, JD,” Josh Donaldson steps into the batter’s box and lashes a hit that hugs the third base line for a leadoff double. Encarnacion is walked to put the double play in order for Bautista, who strikes out. Sidewinder Darren O’Day is summoned from the Baltimore bullpen, and he gets Russell Martin to hit into a big, inning-ending double play.
After getting Chris Davis to pop out to begin the inning, the Blue Jays detect something’s amiss with Osuna, who leaves the game and is replaced by Francisco Liriano. He gets the next two outs. In the bottom, nothing’s brewing for Toronto; three up, three down.
Liriano, just shifted from a starting role into the bullpen, continues to shine, mowing down all three Baltimore batters he faces in the top of the frame. Then, Devon Travis hits a one-out single off Ubaldo Jimenez and alertly runs to third when Nolan Reimold bobbles a hit to left by Donaldson. That clears the way for Encarnacion, who crushes a pitch to left field, a three-run shot that sets off a wild celebration within Rogers Centre.Report Typo/Error
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