Down 3-1 heading to the seventh inning, the Jays were able to get Archer out of the game and then made short work of reliever Brad Boxberger to tie the game on a clutch two-run single by Devon Travis.
That set the stage for Martin’s heroics. With Kevin Jepsen on the mound for Tampa Bay, Dioner Navarro walked on five pitches. Dalton Pompey came on to run and stole second base on the first pitch to Martin. Two pitches later, Martin had the green light on a 3-0 count and didn’t miss it. It landed about 10 rows deep in left field for his 17th homer of the year.
“Typically you’re looking for a pitch out over the middle of the plate and that’s what I got,” said Martin. “There’s only one pitch, one spot and if it’s not there, you take it. If it’s there you’ve got to let it rip and it ended up in my happy zone.”
It was Happ’s worst outing since these same Tampa Bay Rays flayed him for eight runs in two innings during a 13-2 slaughter back in May. Remarkably, he was able to hold the Rays to three runs and the bullpen picked him up. Barnes, Feldman, Joaquin Benoit, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna combined for 6.1 scoreless innings and by that time, the Jays had turned the tide in their favour.
“That was huge that the bullpen was able to keep us in the game,” said Happ. “Dev and Russell got two huge hits for us. It was a great team win.”
After Archer fanned Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to start the game, Edwin Encarnacion doubled to the wall in right-centre. He then scored when Navarro leaked a single between first and second base. On the throw to the plate, Navarro strayed too far off first base and was caught off the base for the third out, but after Encarnacion had scored to make it 1-0.
It was obvious right from the start that Happ didn’t have it.
“It’s a good effort by this team and hopefully we can keep it going and carry it into New York with the day game tomorrow,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who took over for Gibbons, including handling his post-game media responsibilities.
Martin, coming off a red-hot August in which he hit nine homers, said afterward that Gibbons getting ejected protected him from a similar fate.
“It just shows that he has our back and that’s all you can ask from your manager,” Martin said. “He kind of just weathered the storm a little bit, took the heat for everybody.”
For the first six innings on Sunday afternoon the Jays had little going right. Their offence, which has sputtered all road trip, stayed cool against Rays ace Chris Archer, who despite his middling numbers this season is still one of the league’s top pitchers on any given day.
But with his pitch count climbing up over 100, Archer got the hook after giving up a one-out single in the seventh. That’s when the Jays’ offence awoke, rallying to tie the game on a bases-loaded, two-run single by Devon Travis. That swung the momentum in the Jays’ favour, Hale said.
“You could see the dugout got a little emotional and we kind of smelt the win.”
The comeback salvaged a disappointing outing for lefty J.A. Happ, who exited in the third inning after allowing three runs on six hits and two walks. But the bullpen picked him up, as Danny Barnes and Scott Feldman kept the Rays in check until the Jays could tie it up and then the high-leverage trio of Joaquin Benoit, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna saw the victory through.
About those bats. They were in tough, facing Chris Archer. They jumped out to a lead after Archer struck out Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to start the game, but Edwin Encarnacion doubled and scored on a single by cleanup eater hitter Dioner Navarro. Then it became a typical Archer outing against the Jays, as he found his groove and they did a whole lot of nothing for the next 5 innings, other than threatening with two out in the 3rd.
So things were looking bleak, though the Jays were only down 3-1 going to the 7th. Troy Tulowitzki singled with one out in the 7th, which chased Archer at 105 pitches. Then the bats had some fun when Brad Boxberger came out of the pen: Michael Saunders singled, and Kevin Pillar walked. When you walk Pillar, you’re just asking for it, and Devon Travis gave them the horns with a single that tied that the game. Unfortunately, they couldn’t take the lead between a Bautista fielder’s choice, Donaldson walk, and EE foulout to strand the bases loaded.
But it was only a matter of time. the Rays switched out Boxberger for Kevin Jepsen; the Jays didn’t care. Navaroo walked, and Dalton Pompey pinch ran. Everyone knew he was going to take off, and yet it he still easily stole second. Not that it mattered; Russell Martin went yard with the go ahead and game winning blow.
The bullpen collectively was really the hero in this one though, combining for 6.1 scoreless innings.
Russell Martin connected on a tiebreaking two-run homer in the eighth inning, and Roberto Osuna would close it out for his 30th save of the season, as the Blue Jays held on to avoid the sweep.
Navarro was also responsible for the very first run of the day in the first inning, driving in Edwin Encarnacion with a single to right field. Devon Travis also had a productive day at the plate, driving in Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders with a bases-loaded single in the seventh. Tulowitzki had a pair of singles while Josh Donaldson walked twice.
J.A. Happ didn’t manage to complete three full innings, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks. The veteran left-hander needed 85 pitches in just two and two-thirds innings, representing a rare blip on an otherwise strong season. Danny Barnes was first on in relief and was excellent, giving the Blue Jays two and a third shutout frames.
Following a scoreless inning from Scott Feldman, Joaquin Benoit struck out the side in the seventh, earning the win and recording his 1000th career save.
Jason Grilli then struck out two in a clean eighth before Roberto Osuna earned his 30th save of the season, striking out two batters and not allowing a base runner.
Devon Travis ignited the Toronto Blue Jays comeback Sunday when he drove a two-run single through the left side of the infield in the top of the seventh inning, tying the game at three a piece. But Russell Martin put the exclamation mark on it when he blasted a two-run shot off Kevin Jepsen in the eighth inning, putting the Jays up 5-3.
The veteran catcher was given the green light on a 3-0 count, and Martin, who has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball since August, found something he could drive, which was in the form of a 92 mph fastball thrown right down the heart of the plate.
“Typically, you’re looking for a pitch that’s out over the plate and that’s what I got,” Martin said. “There’s really one pitch, one spot — if it’s not there, you take it. If it’s there, you have to let it rip, and it ended up in my happy zone.”
Martin’s two-run shot propelled the Blue Jays to a 5-3 victory and also helped ensure the team would not be swept by the pesky Tampa Bay Rays.
JOINS THE CLUB: Jays’ 21-year-old closer Roberto Osuna earned his 30th save of the season in Sunday’s win, becoming the 11th pitcher in franchise history to reach the single season mark. The last Jays pitcher to earn 30 saves was Casey Janssen in 2013.
Osuna is also the youngest pitcher in baseball history to collect 50 career saves.
Liriano faced three batters in Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing a homer and a triple while another batter reached on an error. No definitive conclusions should be drawn from it.
Only 28 of his 280 career big-league games have been out of the bullpen, and his previous relief appearance came on Sept. 11, 2012 for the Chicago White Sox versus Detroit.
Clearly, he’s not in his comfort zone.
“It was a little uncomfortable, not physically but mentally – I’m not really used to doing that,” says Liriano. “I’m going to find a way to get better at that.”
One school of thought is that Liriano’s stuff should play up out of the bullpen and his fastball/slider repertoire could allow him to give the Blue Jays the steady lefty reliever they’ve been seeking, but his mindset will need work before that can happen.
“That was one of the things for me – thinking too much, trying to set up guys and the next thing you know you’re out of the game,” says Liriano. “I need to come in from the bullpen and just go at the hitters, attack and try to put them away right away. I don’t need to set up guys because I’m not going to face them twice or three times. It’s a different mentality and I need to find a way to get better and get used to it.”
All these years later, the two are still something of an odd pair. There’s a 12-year age gap, for starters. But they also have very different personalities. Thole is jocular and outgoing, while Dickey is more pensive. On the field, however, they clearly have a special bond.
“We’ve built a good thing over the last seven years, more than just a pitcher-catcher relationship,” Thole says. “We both trust each other a lot.”
Dickey was called up to the Mets in May 2010 and Thole followed the next month. With a few exceptions, they have worked together almost exclusively since. But a turning point came in early 2011, when Thole felt he was regressing in his handling of the pitch. Like Dickey, who often turned to past knuckleball practitioners for advice, Thole reached out to Doug Mirabelli, the former Red Sox backstop who caught Tim Wakefield, one of Dickey’s knuckleball forebears.
“I was struggling with it bad,” Thole said. “So I spoke with him about it and he gave me some pointers.”
Most of Thole’s expertise catching Dickey has come from repetition, but Mirabelli’s advice was invaluable. “Quite frankly I have to give Doug a lot of the credit because the things that he told me to do are the things that put me over the top.”
Thole did not want to go into specifics about what Mirabelli told him — “I can’t give away my secrets or I’ll never have a job,” he says, laughing — but a lot was about how he set up behind the plate. Mirabelli’s advice on the mental side, however, may have been more important.
“The best advice he gave me aside from the mechanics was ‘Just know that you’re going to lead the league in passed balls every year. That’s the nature of the beast.’ That helped a lot, because once you miss one you start getting tense, you start getting tight and then you miss the next one and the next one. But when you see it as part of the gig it’s easier to relax.”
Buffalo Bisons 3, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders 5
Make it five games in a row that the Buffalo Bisons have lost to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders after Saturday’s 5-3 loss. Jio Mier provided three hits including a double and two RBI while Matt Dominguez, after clearing waivers and being sent outright to Buffalo, was 2/3 with a walk. Domonic Brown hit a double and drove in a run.
Casey Lawrence was on the mound for Buffalo, giving up five runs (four earned) on just four hits and two walks and struck out seven batters over seven innings. Murphy Smith made his Triple-A debut after his promotion from New Hampshire and finished the game with a scoreless eighth, allowing a hit and a walk with one strikeout.
Player of the Game: Jio Mier and Matt Dominguez
Roster Notes: Murphy Smith was promoted to Buffalo from New Hampshire while Jason Berken was placed on the 7-day DL. Matt Dominguez was sent outright to Buffalo.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (68-72) – 5
Portland Sea Dogs (54-83) – 2
Rowdy Tellez continued his late-season surge by hitting his 23rd home run of the season, giving him six in the last nine games. Dwight Smith Jr. is keeping pace with 15 on the season, and his solo shot on Saturday gave him three in his last five games. Ian Parmley was 2-for-3 with a double while Roemon Fields drove in two (1-for-3).
Shane Dawson earned his 10th win of the season, allowing just two runs in seven innings. He limited the Sea Dogs to just five hits and did not walk a batter. John Anderson struck out three over the final two innings to earn his first save of the season with New Hampshire.
Need to know: The Jays have won all four series against the Yankees this season and lead the season series 9-3 … Despite trading away three of their best players at the deadline, the Yankees had the best month of their season in August and now sit within five games off a wild-card spot … Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is the ace of the Yankees’ staff and while he has struck out fewer batters this season, he has also allowed fewer home runs … The Yankees have struggled with injuries all season, the latest being starting pitcher Chad Green, who was diagnosed with an elbow sprain on Sunday … Heading into Sunday’s series finale against Tampa, the Jays were hitting just .213 on the road trip while averaging 4.2 runs per game.