photo from mlb.com
All’s well that ends well.
That, in a nutshell, can summarize the week that was in Toronto. Two thrilling comeback wins over the Tigers ended the homestand with great drama and sent the Jays on the road with happy thoughts, momentum, and confidence.
Of course, while those wins were obviously very, very important in the standings, the biggest value provided was to mask the major disappointment from earlier in the week, when the team missed a golden chance to gain ground on the division leading Orioles, then blew a game in the 9th inning on Friday.
But at the end of the week, the team only lost a single game in the standings and now heads west full of confidence.
As I said – all’s well that ends well!
Here are three things from week 19:
Week 19: August 4 – August 10
Record: 3 – 3
1. Falling Apart
On June 1, after a 4-0 win over the Royals, Mark Buehrle was 10-1 with a 2.10 ERA. He led the American League in many pitching categories and was on pace for a career year. In his next five starts he still pitched very well (3.44 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) but was victimized by poor run support and went 0-4. But since then, things have been going steadily downhill for the Jays lefty to the point that many are starting to question whether he is more of a liability than an asset, and those questions grew louder after his performance last week.
In a very important week for the club, Buehrle made two starts against division leaders. On Tuesday against Baltimore he was hit hard, lasting only four innings and allowing 4 runs on 10 hits with 3 walks. On Sunday against Detroit he was just as bad, only giving the Jays 3.1 IP while surrendering 5 runs (2 earned) on 9 hits. A Jose Reyes in the first led to three unearned runs, and Buehrle was unable to recover.
In total, since that win over the Royals, Buehrle is now 1-7 with a 4.76 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in 12 starts. He looks nothing like the fast moving workhorse who was dominating the league when the season was young. In a rotation with an erratic knuckleballer and two very young kids, Toronto needs Buehrle to settle down in order to stay close down the stretch.
2. What a Series!
Let’s put aside for a second any love we have for the home team and act as pure neutral observers. If you were going to introduce regular season baseball to a first-time viewer, you’d be hard pressed to find a better series than the Detroit vs. Toronto set from this weekend. It was a three game series featuring two contending teams in August, two old division rivals who still can’t stand each other, sellout crowds, outstanding performances, and incredible drama. What more could you ask for?
Friday night saw a terrific pitching performance by R.A. Dickey (2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings), and what looked to be a certain Blue Jays win thwarted in the ninth when Casey Janssen allowed back-to-back home runs for the first time since 2010. Saturday saw an even better pitching performance by both Marcus Stroman (9 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 4 K) and Max Scherzer (8 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 11 K), and culminated in the Jays snapping a 51-game losing streak when trailing after 8 innings. A Navarro RBI single in the ninth tied it before a Nolan Reimold game-winning double in the tenth won it for the home team.
And then came Sunday….
3. What a Game!!!
It started out badly – very badly. A Reyes first inning error opened the door for three Tiger runs. Buehrle couldn’t stop the bleeding. The Blue Jays could barely touch David Price. It was 5-0 Detroit heading to the bottom of the sixth and fans were heading for the exits.
But this is baseball. This is a game where things can change on a moment’s notice. This is a game where a team is never truly out of it. There is no clock. Your opponent has to record 27 outs to win the game, so as long as your team has at least one of those outs remaining, anything can happen. With two outs and nobody on in the 6th inning the Blue Jays still had 10 outs to work with when good things starting happening.
A Valencia liner was deflected for a double, and was followed up by a Navarro homer. 5-2.
In the seventh, the Jays turned three singles and a walk into two more runs. 5-4.
In the ninth, a strike-em out throw-em out double play was overturned by the magic of video review, allowing Gose to remain on second base, where he was driven in by the first inning goat Jose Reyes. 5-5.
And so the game continued. It kept going, and going, and going, and going. Ryan Goins and Nick Castellanos played rock, paper, scissors from opposing dugouts. Colby Rasmus made not one but two incredible catches to save the Jays. Juan Francisco blew golden chance after golden chance to save the Tigers. Chad Jenkins pitched the game of his career – 6 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 4 K - as the final pitcher out of the bullpen. Melky Cabrera reached based eight times (8!!!!) to keep Toronto believing. And finally, long after it began, the game ended. Jose Bautista, after going 0 for 7 with 9 LOB, knocked in Kawasaki in the 19th inning for the win.
19 innings. 6 hours and 37 minutes. By both inning and time it was the longest game in franchise history. And when it ended, the Jays were exhausted but happy – so happy they could kiss each other.