Written by Mike Laws
No love late
Bautista’s late strike gives Jays tenth straight W
Orioles 2, Toronto 4
Irony: The game Buck Showalter didn’t get ejected from was the one that provided him much better reason to complain.
Another way of saying this — one where I’ll caution the kids to go ahead and please earmuff, at this point — is that Jose Bautista’s eventual game-winner of a home run was total bullshit.
Last I checked, the Toronto right fielder was one of the premier sluggers in the sport. Surely he doesn’t need any aid from the men in black. And yet that’s precisely what he got on not one, not two, but three separate deliveries from Darren O’Day, with two men down and a man aboard in the Blue Jay eighth.
Let’s set the scene. O’Day’s just come on in relief of Miguel Gonzalez, who would’ve had every right to turn in a rare stinker, given the likely circumstance of compromised sleep resulting from his being a proud new papa. But apparently not even that’s an excuse, for the most reliably solid of the Oriole starters. It was only the third hit of the afternoon after which Gonzalez got the hook, having recorded one out in the eighth; of course, sadly, one of the other two was a home run to right from a first-ball-hitting Maicer Izturis, who must’ve been guessing fastball to lead off the fifth. Anyway, the only other run Gonzalez had surrendered had come way back in the first, after Adam Lind kept the inning alive with the other Blue Jay hit thus far on the day, which swung Melky Cabrera (leadoff walk) around to third; Cabrera would come in to score by virtue of a wild pitch, a fastball sailing up and away from Oriole backstop Taylor Teagarden, whose stab could only nick, but not corral, the offering. (But who would make up for the play, or lack thereof, later. Read on …)
Meantime, twice the O’s had battled back from a one-run deficit, doing their best to post any kind of number against a Chien-Ming Wang who, though he wouldn’t enjoy a true one-two-three frame until his final completed inning (the sixth), enjoyed some luck with double-play liners and speared comebackers and the like, as well as some fine defensive plays from his corner in- and outfielders, to avoid a real-deal Big Inning. The Birds clawed back to even things up at 1-1 in the fifth, with Chris Davis reaching on an error from Toronto second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and J.J. Hardy moving the big man up ninety feet on a softly bounced fielder’s choice to the right side, followed by Travis Ishikawa finally managing to get a well-hit liner back through the box and past Wang, who could only slow this particular baseball down a touch on its way into center. And after Izturis’s blast in the fifth, and after Wang had given way to Aaron Loup and Loup to Neil Wagner and Wagner to Darren Oliver — at 42, today’s Jesse Orosco, basically — it would be Teagarden furnishing the unlikely game-tying long ball in the Oriole eighth, unloading on an 0-1 Oliver fastball, sending it out of Rogers Centre to left in a hurry.
We sure didn’t have much time to celebrate, though. Gonzalez grounded Bonifacio out to second to begin the bottom half of the eighth but then surrendered a single back up the middle on a two-strike delivery to Munenori Kawasaki, who will forever be a Blue Jay fan favorite until Jose Reyes gets back and Kawasaki is never heard from again. Anyhoo: One aboard, one out, enter O’Day. The side-armer gets defensive replacement Rajai Davis to roll over on a pitch, sending it to first, where Ishikawa does a nice job clearing lead man Kawasaki and getting the force at second, though R. Davis is too damn quick to double up. Shame, because here’s where O’Day delivers a first pitch to Bautista that appears to sweep back across the inner half, but which home-plate ump Paul Nauert adjudges to have curled around the dish. Which is weird, because the next pitch is basically the same thing and is called a strike. But OK, whatever, maybe the first offering just barely missed the corner. On to the next one: a fastball over the middle of the plate that never reaches so much as Bautista’s letters (meaning, of course, his belt, if he were to come out of that defecatory posture he calls a stance and stand up straight). Ball two. Um, okay …
The pitch deemed ball three is where it really gets insane. All day long Nauert has had a conspicuously low zone; he even called a strike on Markakis, on a delivery from Wang, that must’ve crossed at about the level of Nick’s shoestrings. But now he refuses to give what’s doubtless a higher pitch than that, a perfect two-seamer above Bautista’s knees over the outside corner, to O’Day. Hey, if that last pitch was high, due to Bautista’s exagerrated coiled-spring crouch, how is that one low, with the slugger’s knees practically scraping the batter’s-box dirt?
So Bautista’s been ushered right along into a hitter’s count at 3-1. He fouls off an O’Day offering, then a second, despite being fooled badly by the off-speed payoff pitch. Then, wouldn’t you know it, he turns on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, and by my count either the sixth or seventh strike, blasting it directly down the left-field line and out, good for a two-run homer and a 4-2 Jays lead — from which suffice it to say the Orioles didn’t do much of anything to come back, in the ninth — and has the gall to bark at O’Day (Bautista does) on his way in to touch the plate/greet his new best friend Nauert. Hey, Jose, given three extra strikes, even your suspiciously less powerful pre-2010 self probably could’ve made that hay …
In any case, no use crying over spilt growth hormone milk. O’s lose the second of the three-game weekend set; Jays turn in their tenth straight victory; 4-2, is your (sickening) final.
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