The Toronto Blue Jays sure are taking the longest road to the playoffs. At times it’s a cliffside road with no guard rail, but their 4-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday guaranteed them at least a playoff tiebreaker in dramatic fashion.
Entering play on Sunday the tiebreak scenarios are seemingly endless, especially with the Detroit Tigers having one extra game on Monday if it impacts playoff standings. The Blue Jays can seal a trip to the Wild Card game with a win, however, and the other chips will fall as they may.
The 9th Inning
Following an eighth inning from the Twilight Zone, the Blue Jays rallied with their most important inning of the year against Craig Kimbrel.
Michael Saunders opened the inning with a walk and was replaced by Dalton Pompey as a pinch-runner, a strategy that could carry over to the playoff roster. Kevin Pillar then moved Pompey to second with a critical bunt, which he described with some colour to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi after the game.
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“I said a couple of prayers to whatever god I believe in, whether it’s the Jewish one, the Christian one, the Catholic one, the baseball gods were with me, too,” Pillar said. “But a guy like that, you really just have to look centre-cut, right down the middle. If it’s not there, he’s an extremely tough guy to bunt, tough guy to face. Sometimes when you bunt you can get stagnant and wait on the pitch, so you try to stay athletic, and at the end of the day you’ve got to put your sack on the line and get it done.”
After a wild pitch moved Pompey to third, Ezequiel Carrera drove him in with a fly ball to left field that was just deep enough. Pompey slid head-first to the first-base side of home plate, just beating the throw and securing the win for the Blue Jays.
The 8th Inning – “The Balk”
Before Carrera and Pompey saved the day, it looked like Blue Jays fans would spend the coming years discussing a play known only as “The Balk”.
Jason Grilli opened the eight by allowing a double to Mookie Betts on a check-swing slapper then walking Hanley Ramirez. He was replaced by Roberto Osuna, tasking the young closer with the final six outs and a 3-2 lead. Once Betts had moved over to third, the bizarre occurred.
Osuna was called with a balk, bringing home Betts to tie the game. The right-hander showed excellent composure, however, locking down the ninth with a three up, three down inning.
Bats Quiet (Again)
Despite the win, Toronto didn’t manage to produce much at the plate. They struck out a whopping 13 times and recorded just four hits. This included three strikeouts from Josh Donaldson and a pair from Jose Bautista that put a cap on the top half of the lineup.
Pillar was the offensive star, going 2-for-3 with three RBI. He opened the scoring for the Blue Jays in the top of the second inning, singling to score Bautista and Russell Martin. Four innings later in the sixth, Pillar scored Martin again with a single.
The Blue Jays send Aaron Sanchez to the mound today at 3:05 p.m. ET to face David Price, who reportedly will not throw a full start.
This could be called a break for the Blue Jays, but then again, few things work out as they should at this time of the season. Toronto would have ideally liked to line up Sanchez for a Wild Card game or game one of the ALDS, but the opportunity to solidify a Wild Card spot without an additional tiebreak game is far too valuable.