Josh Thole was throwing a football around with teammate Darwin Barney in the crowded quarters of the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse. Eminem’s notable hit Lose Yourself was just starting to pulsate from the room’s speakers.
Kevin Pillar and Melvin Upton Jr. were both chilling in front of their lockers, each wearing a wintery Jays’ tuque that was a free giveaway to the fans during Sunday’s game at Rogers Centre.
Across the way, Edwin Encarnacion carefully ripped away some bubble wrap to admire a large, framed picture that commemorated his 300th career home run that he stroked on Aug. 12 against the Houston Astros.
For a group embroiled in a heated battle for the postseason heading into the final week of the regular season, the Blue Jays were certainly not displaying any outward signs of nervous tension going into Monday night’s series finale against the New York Yankees.
They were obviously saving all their pent-up adrenalin for the game.
In a contest that featured two bench-clearing melees before the completion of the second inning, the Yankees would counterpunch with two home runs late in the game to stun the Blue Jays 7-5.
Toronto led 3-2 heading into the top of the ninth, but reliever Jason Grilli, with closer Roberto Osuna getting a night off to rest, gave up a one-out home run to Mark Teixeira that tied things up.
A two-run home run by Aaron Hicks soon followed as the Yankees would pile on five runs. That sent a rollicking Rogers Centre gathering into a state of shock.
Toronto starter J.A. Happ pitched well enough to win, but was deprived of his 21st victory despite allowing just two New York runs (one earned) off six hits over 7 1/3 innings.
The foundation for the animosity, apart from the Blue Jays having steamrolled New York over the first three games of the set, was established in the first inning when New York starter Luis Severino grazed Josh Donaldson with a pitch.
Donaldson would eventually come around to score after Severino issued his second walk of the inning to Russell Martin with the bases loaded to tie the game at 1-1.
In the top of the second inning, Happ drilled leadoff hitter Chase Headley in the derriere with his second pitch, which the New York batter did not appreciate, slamming his bat into ground in disgust.
Headley loitered in the batter’s box as home plate umpire Todd Tichenor issued warnings to both benches, and the next thing you know both dugouts and bullpens emptied for a harmless tête-à-tête on the field.
Calmer heads prevailed – at least until the bottom of the inning where Severino appeared intent on hitting Toronto leadoff batter Justin Smoak.
His first pitch was well inside, but the Toronto first baseman was able to side step. The second pitch got him in the leg, setting off another bench-clearing skirmish that had a little more meaning to it.
Donaldson was one of the more animated players on the Toronto side, as was reliever Jason Grilli, while Severino, with plenty of his teammates running interference, was openly jawing at any Blue Jay within reach.
By the time order was restored it was apparent that the Blue Jays got the better end of this deal.
Severino was ejected from the game along with New York manager Joe Giradi, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bench coach Rob Thomson, while the Blue Jays escaped without any sanctions.
However, Toronto reliever Joaquin Benoit came away from the fracas limping noticeably and
had to be helped off the field by Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker.
With Jonathan Holder thrust into service as the new Yankees pitcher, the Blue Jays were able to make some hay in the third inning where Troy Tulowitzki stroked a long double that scored Jose Bautista from second base, moving Toronto in front 2-1.
With Martin perched at third base for Toronto, lefty James Pazos was called on to pitch to lefthanded hitter Michael Saunders, and Saunders responded with a bloop single to right to bring the score to 3-1.
Despite the congestion in the standing, the Blue Jays came into the day knowing that they at least controlled their own destiny, needing to win five of their remaining seven games to secure
at least one of the wild-card spots.
Despite Monday’s setback, the Blue Jays continue to reside in
the top wild-card perch, but only by a slender solitary game over the idle Baltimore Orioles.
And with the Orioles in town to face Toronto for the next three games the stakes could not be higher.Report Typo/Error
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