Jays beat Mariners in marathon match
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
|Toronto Blue Jays batter John McDonald, centre, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a sacrifice fly to score Rajai Davis, left, during the 14th inning against the Seattle Mariners in Toronto, July 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
TORONTO - The Blue Jays promised they’d have a run-and-gun element to their offence and last night it paid off in spades.
In an extra-inning game that reached the bottom of the 14th, the Blue Jays had their fastest bullet come through in the clutch.
With one out, Rajai Davis, who came into the game in the ninth as a pinch-runner for Yunel Escobar, singled to centre to get things started.
Everybody in Rogers Centre knew what was coming next and despite numerous pitchouts from reliever Jamey Wright, Davis stole second with John McDonald at the plate on a 1-0 count. Two pitches later he took off again and was standing at third with his third stolen base of the game and 28th of the season.
On the next pitch, McDonald launched a fly ball to centre and for the Mariners that was all she wrote as Davis steamed across the plate without the need of a theatrical slide to give the Jays a 6-5 victory and hand Seattle a 6-5 defeat, the 10th consecutive loss for the reeling Mariners.
“Some of the switches that we made to try to get some speed on the basepaths late ended up winning it for us,” manager John Farrell said. “Rajai once again, he gets the base hit after running the count full. We get four stolen bases coming off the bench tonight, it’s a disruptive force.”
In both the eighth and ninth the Jays ran themselves out of innings as first Aaron Hill and later Corey Patterson were thrown out at second on close calls. But Farrell kept pushing that envelope.
“It’s what we set out to do,” Farrell said. ‘We’ve got those guys and that’s their skill set, to run. When Rajai gets on late in the game, we’re certainly going to turn him loose. You saw the distraction that it caused the pitcher on the mound and once again he’s a difference-maker when he gets on base.”
So too was the work of the bullpen as six relievers combined to shut down the Mariners over the final seven innings.
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
With a tough right-hander in rookie Michael Pineda, Jays manager John Farrell went with three left-handed hitting outfielders — Patterson, Eric Thames and Travis Snider.
No surprise there. The surprise was that he had Snider in centre and not Patterson, marking Snider’s first career major league start at that position.
Prior to being recalled July 4 from Las Vegas, Snider had played five games in centre for the 51s and Farrell said that he may start him in centre at some point.
Well, that day was Tuesday.
Which begs the question: If the Maple Leafs know that Snider can play centre, will they be interested?
“We’ll certainly get a read on his routes which in left are very good,” Farrell said. “The times that he’s going to be in centre field, we’ll get a better read on it and that’s something that we can factor in more long-term, going forward as Alex continues to find ways to upgrade the roster. The fact is he played there in Vegas, he played there briefly earlier his year in Anaheim and this gives us the opportunity to look at him again.”
Against the Mariners, Snider had to fetch just three balls in centre. He made a quick read and a running catch to the warning track on a ball hit by Mike Carp in the fifth. Then in the sixth, he came in on the run and made a diving catch for the third out.
His best play occurred in the seventh. Ryan lined a single to right-centre that Snider raced to cut off and despite his momentum going in the wrong direction, he threw a one-hop strike to Yunel Escobar covering second to nail Ryan attempting to stretch the hit into a double.
In short, he didn’t look out of place.
In an effort to get something going in the way of offence, Seattle’s Brendan Ryan took off for third with one out in the opening inning. A good throw may have got him but when J.P. Arencibia fired a one-hopper to Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan slid in safely. He trotted home on Dustin Ackley’s single to centre ... Yunel Escobar opened the game for the Jays with a single to centre marking the 23rd consecutive game that he has reached base safely, a career high ... Seven of the nine batters in the Mariners starting lineup entered the game having hit three or fewer home runs this season ... The Jays snapped a few batting skids in the game as Patterson’s single in the fifth snapped an 0-for-10 skid. Aaron Hill opened the seventh with a double to left, breakinging an 0-for-12 streak ... In the eighth, Hill ran the Jays out of an inning when with two out and Arencibia at the plate, he took off for second and was thrown out to end the inning ... The Jays were at it again in the ninth as Patterson was thrown out on a close play at second by C Miguel Olivo with one out.