The crowd at Rogers Centre was juiced as the opportunity presented itself for Jose Bautista to perhaps once again lift the Toronto Blue Jays out of the doldrums in their game against the Chicago White Sox.
Toronto manager John Farrell then took the bat out of the hands of baseball's most prolific home run hitter and the opportunity quickly fizzled as the White Sox went on to record a 3-1 victory Thursday night at Rogers Centre.
It was a well-pitched affair as was evident by the score of 1-1 heading into the eighth inning where the light-hitting Blue Jays got what would be their sixth and final hit of the game when Corey Patterson singled to right field with two out.
Up to the plate strode Bautista, who came into the game sitting atop the major leagues with 19 home runs to go along with a hefty .342 batting average.
The timing was delicious except for one thing.
After Toronto-born Chicago reliever Jesse Crain fell behind Bautista 2-1 on the count, the manager said he gave the okay for Patterson to steal second - which he promptly did on the next pitch, which was ball three.
Patterson was safe at second, which was the good news for Toronto supporters.
The bad was that, with first base now open, the White Sox chose to intentionally walk the dangerous Bautista and take their chances with Juan Rivera, whose bat is not nearly as qualified.
The chess game worked in Chicago's favour as Rivera grounded out to end the inning.
The White Sox would go on to score two unearned runs in the ninth to win the first game of a four-game series.
"The fact that he [Patterson]stole second base is not the difference in this game," the steely-eyed Farrell told reporters after the game, and he has a point.
A throwing error by the normally trustworthy third baseman John McDonald in the ninth that allowed Chicago leadoff batter Alex Rios to land at second base was an obvious pratfall.
So was another error by Rivera whose relay to reliever Marc Rzepczynski, covering at first base after a hit down the line by Juan Pierre, handcuffed the Toronto pitcher and allowed two unearned Chicago runs to cross the plate.
But taking the bat out of Bautista's hands in the eighth was also mystifying to some.
As usual, Farrell had his reasons.
He noted - correctly - that Bautista was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in his previous head-to-head encounters with Crain.
"He [Crain]got behind in the count, 2 and 1, it was clearly a running situation, that we felt we could take the base easily," Farrell said.
"Even if Corey's at first base on a 3-1 count, they're not going to pitch to him [Bautista] They're going to see if he'll chase a breaking ball off the plate."
That logic is all sound.
But what if Patterson remained at first and Crain made a mistake trying to carefully pitch around Bautista.
Bautista came into the game averaging a home run every 7.7 at-bats this season and he knows what to do with mistakes.
Thursday night at Rogers Centre he wasn't give the chance.Report Typo/Error
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