Destiny is fickle. The Blue Jays came into St. Petersburg winners of 11 in a row. They had stormed back in the American League East to pass the Rays, and found themselves a mere five games back of first place (they'd been as much as eleven back). They probably felt pretty good about themselves. I imagine there were scores of Torontons watching the game in the same bar they'd frequented for the past week, drinking the same beers, trying to do their supernatural part.
In the second inning, Loney grabbed hold of a pitch and lined it over the left field wall. Before this season I would have been surprised by a James Loney home run, but no longer. The man has real power. He's just the victim, if you want to call it that, of a line drive swing that limits his home run potential. But sometimes he hits it right, and it gets out, usually on a line, as it did tonight.
Wil Myers was up next, and he took an inside fastball for a strike, then took a ball down and in. He took another strike, that definitely should have been called a ball, fouled a pitch off, and then majestically crushed a fastball to straight center field, ricocheting it high off the Batter's Eye Restaurant. Yes it was his first home run in The Trop, but it's also expected. Wil Myers is going to hit a lot of home runs here. Back to back home runs aren't that unusual.
But up next was Sam Fuld. Esmil Rogers grooved him a fastball, and he did with it what James Loney is expected to do occasionally, what Wil Myers is expected to do often, and what Sam Fuld is expected to do almost never. He blasted it over the right field wall to make it 3-0 on back-to-back-to-back home runs.
Sorry my sweat snow birds, you were not winning today.
Jeremy Hellickson pitched very well, striking out four in seven innings while allowing one hit and four walks, leaning heavily on his fastball and changeup, and sprinkling in some nice backdoor curves. Despite the poor K/BB ratio, he stayed in control all game, and pitched to the corners. It was a quality outing. It's worth noting that the two times Helly got into trouble tonight, he was the beneficiary of timely double plays. The first was a 3-6-1 double play with runners at the corners. Loney started it beautifully, and Hellickson did a good job beating Maicer Izturis to the bag. The second one was a more common 6-4-3 that was still notable by a great turn on Ben Zobrist's part. Adam Lind didn't hit the ball very hard, and Zobrist needed to showcase his arm strength to beat him.
In the bottom of the third inning, Matt Joyce lead off with a line drive over the second baseman's head. He went in motion, and possibly stayed out of a double play as Zobrist grounded to second. Next, Luke Scott hit a high fly ball into short left field, but with the outfield shaded to pull, no one had a play. Joyce read the situation well, and scored easily to tag on the fourth run.
The Blue Jays got on the board in the bottom of the eighth inning. Alex Torres came on in relief of Hellickson, and he had his swing-and-miss stuff, but an infield hit, a walk, and bloop on a bad (good) swing by Melky Cabrera loaded the bases for Jose Bautista (who scarily represented the tying run), and Rajai Davis came in to pinch run for Cabrera. Bautista beat a chopper into the ground, which Escobar had to wait for, and he managed to throw out Davis at second, but it was very close play on account of Davis's speed. Edwin Encarnacion flew out to right field to end the inning.
Fernando Rodney closed out the game in style with two strikeouts, a groundout, and only an infield hit allowed.
Some other notes:
- Edwin Encarnacion whiffed on the first pitch he saw and let go of the bat, sending it into the seats along the third base line. The bat hit a Blue Jays fan. He finished the at bat by whiffing once more, and once more heaving his bat into the stands. It was caught by another Blue Jays fan. Either there were too many Jays fans in The Trop tonight, or EE has good aim.
- Yunel Escobar got caught on an in-between hop against the speedy Munenori Kawasaki. He worked his legs around and threw strongly and accurately to first base. Afterward, he could be seen blowing on his throwing hand, presumably to clear the gunsmoke. Someone, please .gif this.
- The umpires were not very kind to Wil Myers. Several of the sliders called for strikes against him were either balls, or borderline, completely un-hittable strikes. In his last at bat, he was called out on a backdoor breaking ball that seemed to stay off the plate. After seeing one un-hittable slider in the top of the sixth inning, Myers lined another tough slider up the middle for a single.
- Immediately after this single, Myers tried to steal second (in the postgame interview, he said it was a hit and run). J.P. Arrencibia's throw beat him there, but Myers acrobatically slid around the tag and reached back to grab the bag as he passed. The ump called him out, but replays showed that had gotten in cleanly and should have been safe.
- Hellickson really struggled with Colby Rasmus today, walking him three times. The first and third time he got ahead of Rasmus, but couldn't put him away. The second time he got behind early and then gave up the walk. The third at bat (in the seventh inning) was most frustrating. Helly made Rasmus look silly with a low curve, but after that, each of his curves were just slightly too low to be enticing. Every time he would try to throw an outside fastball, it would leak back over the plate just slightly and Rasmus would foul it off. The last pitch of the walk was an outside fastball taken in a spot that's off the plate but usually called a strike. Hellickson got out of the inning by striking out Arrencibia swinging on a changeup in a full count, and showed some well-deserved emotion as he walked off the mound.
- Juan Perez has a crazy delivery. He opens his hips so that he's practically facing home plate straight on, whips his arm, and then staggers backward as if he's just run into a wall.