TORONTO - The sense of urgency that usually accompanies first-place teams at this juncture of the season was nowhere to be found.
The buzz and the full house that was part and parcel of the New York Yankees in the preceding three games gave way to empty seats and indifference.
The Chicago White Sox are never much of a draw in these parts (16,828 Monday night) even though they came into town as the AL Central leaders.
The Blue Jays on Sunday came up with an amazing 14 hits and 10 runs in their surprise win against the Yankees and the thinking was that — hopefully — the game would provide the Jays with a mental breather.
Baseball games, however, unlike football games, do not provide much if any carryover and instead of using Sunday’s game as a springboard, the last win began to look more like a bolt out of the blue.
Then, out of nowhere the drama began to build again.
In the eighth Jays rookie Moises Sierra would slug his first big-league home run to power the Jays into a 2-1 lead.
Casey Janssen came on to close it out in the ninth but his string of being a perfect 15-for-15 in save situations since taking over the closer’s role came to an end as Adam Dunn hit a solo shot to left to tie it.
The heroics then switched to Jays reliever Steve Delabar, who in the 10th became the first player in Major League history to record four strikeouts in one inning in extra innings. Delabar struck out Tyler Flowers for what should have been the second out but his splitter eluded Jeff Mathis for a passed ball and Flowers reached first.
No problem as Delabar came back to punch out the next two hitters and added two more in the 11th.
“I just felt good today,” Delabar said. “There’s all kinds of records out there the guys can set and I’m just privileged to be part of it.”
His effort was rewarded with a W when in the bottom of the 11th with one out and runners on the corners, David Cooper drilled a sharp single to right to drive in the winning run and provide a 3-2 victory.
“It’s over with and back at it tomorrow,” Janssen said of the end of his streak. “You hate to blow a game ever but on the bright side you know it didn’t cost the team a loss. All in all it was still a good day, not personally, but for the team.”
How about Delabar’s four-strikeout inning?
“It’s impressive, it’s tough to do,” Janssen said. “He was nails tonight.”
Cooper’s laser line drive to right came on a full count against Nate Jones.
Late inning heroics, though, are nothing new to Cooper.
On the west coast trip, it was his ninth-inning homer that tied the game in Oakland last Tuesday and led to their 3-1 victory in the 11th.
“That’s the situation you want to be in every time,” Cooper said of his walkoff hit. “It’s the most fun part of the game right there.
“That’s (being clutch in late innings) something you want people to say about you. That’s a big part of what you can do in this game and hopefully it keeps going.”
The Jays have changed their course with Brandon Morrow, who has been out of the rotation since June 12 with a strained left oblique.
Up until Monday the plan had been for Morrow to make one more rehab start with double-A New Hampshire (Tuesday) and then if everything is fine, he would return to the Jays and be available to start Sunday against Texas. The Jays, however, have decided to give Morrow an added minor-league rehab start following Tuesday.
“To get him to what we feel is a comfortable level of 85 pitches at the minor-league level before coming back here,” Farrell said. “He’s going to need two more starts to accomplish that.”
When Morrow returns, Farrell said the Jays will stick with a five-man rotation and not go with six which was once contemplated.
When Morrow returns, one of the current starts will have to go and lefty Aaron Laffey is the likely candidate. The decision would boil down to Laffey or Villanueva and on Monday, Farrell was sticking with Villanueva.
“He’s been reliable his entire time in a Jays uniform,” Farrell said of the right-hander. “He has the ability to make a pitch (in the clutch). He uses all his pitches for strikes.
When asked directly if the Jays would keep him in the rotation and not send him back to the bullpen as they did last season, Farrell replied positively.
“At this point, yeah,” Farrell said.
The decision would then have the rotation comprised of Ricky Romero, Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, J.A. Happ and Villanueva.