Jays earn walk-off winBut Escobar injured by pitch
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is assisted by manager John Farrell (left) and trainer George Poulous after he was hit by a pitch during second inning action against the Orioles on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)
TORONTO - J.P. Arencibia’s face was lit up like a kid at Christmas, talking not so much about his own clutch moment but about all the elements that came together to produce a stunning unexpected comeback that gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 win over Baltimore.
Moments earlier, Arencibia had delivered a game-winning single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, a half inning that began with the Orioles in charge of a 4-3 lead.
After Baltimore closer Kevin Gregg got David Cooper and Brett Lawrie to strike out, the Jays were down to their last out. Then Kelly Johnson worked a seven-pitch walk. Catcher Jose Molina followed with a single into left field. Gregg then grazed pinch-hitter Adam Loewen with a pitch and suddenly, the bases were loaded.
That’s when Arencibia entered the arena, after watching from the bench all day. The second pitch he faced was a ball in the dirt and it got far enough away for Johnson to score from third to tie the game.
“I was pretty jacked up,” said Arencibia. “Then, when that ball got away and the runner scored, it relaxed me a little more. Once I got ahead in the count I knew the pressure was on (Gregg) in that at-bat. He made a good pitch, a 3-1 breaking ball, but left it up a little and I was able to hit it.”
Arencibia’s single into left field scored pinch-runner Chris Woodward and ended the game as he was mobbed - perhaps mugged is a better word - by his teammates.
“You come to the field, you can be called on,” said Arencibia. “The biggest thing is this team is resilient. We don’t stop. We don’t care what the score is, we’re going to play to the last out. That’s the way we play.”
At this point in Arencibia’s scrum in the middle of the clubhouse, one of his teammates handed him a hockey stick, the stick that Arencibia keeps in his locker. He leaned on the prop and changed immediately into hockey-speak.
“That’s why we play hard for all three periods,” he said. “I came in on the fourth line and we just put it away. It went top shelf over the third baseman. I don’t think the third baseman was expecting me to go top shelf.”
On the field after the walk-off, manager John Farrell and Arencibia shared a quick conversation, revisiting a conversation they had early in the year.
“We talked early in the season and I told him I thought I was a guy who could come in and impact a game, pinch-hitting,” said Arencibia. “He agreed with me. Other than that, just go top-shelf every time.”
This was Toronto’s 33rd come-from-behind win, typifying the kind of attitude Farrell has found at the core of this team.
“That’s been a characteristic of our personality through the season,” said Farrell. “There’s been resiliency, whether it’s inside a given game or from game-to-game. They don’t ever feel like they’re out of it. They like to compete and the guys who are here in September are making the most of their opportunities to make an impression.”
Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 41st home run, a two-run shot in the first, and Brett Lawrie chimed in with a solo shot leading off the second, to account for all of Toronto’s scoring until the ninth inning rally.
Nobody was more hyped up than Lawrie, whose ninth home run, was in his 35th game since being recalled from Las Vegas.
“Everyone is playing for next year as well,” said Lawrie. “You can never give anything away in this game. You’ve got to keep going every single day. It’s a grind. It’s a long season and now we’re getting to that point where you’re starting to fade a little bit but you’ve got to keep faith and keep grinding. These are fun wins. These are times you never forget.
“This is just beginning for us. You can expect a lot more of this, I guarantee you.”
The Orioles got to starter Henderson Alvarez for single runs in each of the first three innings, all of them with two outs. In the first inning, Chris Davis drove in Nick Markakis from third with a single. In the second, Matt Angle scored Kyle Hudson from third and then Davis was back in the third to drive in Vlad Guerrero all the way from first with a double. Davis was later thrown out at home by centrefielder DeWayne Wise, trying to score from second on a single by Josh Bell.
An inning later, Escobar was hit on the elbow by a VandenHurk pitch and left the game. X-rays showed no structural damage and his status is listed as day-to-day.
Jesse Litsch relieved Alvarez in the top of the eighth and was greeted by an Andino double to left. One out later, with Andino now at third, Guerrero launched a double into the right-centre gap - his fifth hit in seven at-bat this series - to give Baltimore the lead.