Never Say Never: Blue Jays Create Late Game Magic

“Magic,” John Gibbons says after a walk off win against Chicago in May, “how many times have I talked about magic.”

Well, last night was no different as the Blue Jays stirred up another come-from-behind victory against the Astros.

The truth is, Toronto has been creating this “magic” for some time now. I’m not talking about the five-game win streak they are now on, or the fact that a player named Chris Colabello, who wasn’t even on the team’s opening day roster, is now playing with a 17-game hit streak. Nor is it about Josh Donaldson, who has reached base safely in 38 straight games against Houston, the longest streak for an active player against a particular team, or that the starting staff has pitched the most complete games in the league.

The magic I am referring to is Toronto’s intangible ability to show up in the eighth and ninth innings, when the game is on the line.

Yesterday was the Blue Jays third walk-off win, and it seems suitable to re-visit and analyze what Toronto has been able to do when it comes to their final two swings.

1) April 12th – Bautista Skip

There’s no question that reliever Darren O’Day and Jose Bautista have had their issues with one another. On April 12, Bautista hit his fourth career home run against him.

After Brad Brach delivered a five-pitch walk to Dalton Pompey, submarine pitcher O’Day came in to face number 19. Now, at this point it was a one-run game and could have gone either way. Bautista worked the righty to a six-pitch at-bat, having to duck out of the way from an 87 MPH fastball at his head. With a full count, Bautista recieved a slider left down and in and deposited it into the left field seats for his first on the season.

This proved to be the deciding factor as the Blue Jays would go on to win 10-7.

2) April 18th – Donaldson Loves Extras

Another game where a pitching change proved costly, this time it was against the Braves. After Luis Avilan (who had been stellar all season) worked a perfect ninth, Sugar Ray Marimon came in to work the tenth inning against Donaldson.

His relief outing only lasted two pitches.

After a first-pitch ball, Donaldson sat back on a change-up left up in the zone and absolutely crushed it to left field.

The walk-off was the first of the season for the Blue Jays as they would go on to win it 6-5.

3) April 28th – Slugfest in Boston

The Blue Jays traveled to Beantown and put on a show in the second game of the series. After 30 hits between the two teams, Toronto came out with an 11-8 win. In a game where every Blue Jay recorded a hit, there was still some work to do when it came to the eighth and ninth innings.

It only took three pitches between Donaldson and Bautista to put this game away, though. In the eighth it was number 19 who hit a solo shot off of Craig Breslow to make it 10-6. Boston would then climb back within striking distance after Hanley Ramirez took Aaron Loup deep for a two-run shot.

Right-hander Junichi Tazawa, Boston’s best out of the bullpen, was then put into the ball game tasked with Donaldson in the ninth. It didn’t go so well.

You know the saying “take a pitch” or “see what the pitcher has”? Well, that didn’t apply to Donaldson, who took a first-pitch fastball over the wall, delivering the final blow to the Sox.

4) May 4th – The Force in Toronto

After being shut-out for seven straight innings against Yankees righty Chase Whitley, I think it’s safe to say Toronto got to the New York bullpen.

It all unravelled in the eighth when Donaldson (how many times can one player be brought up in an article?) gave life to the Blue Jays by lining a one-out single to left off Chris Martin. Jose Bautista would follow suit with a ground ball single to right field.

Yankees skipper Joe Girardi had seen enough and went to Dellin Betances (who has been an absolute stud might I add, sporting a 4-0 record with a 0.29 ERA).

With runners on first and second, Encarnacion jumped on the first pitch he saw, hitting a knuckle curve down the left field line that scored JD, and tied the ball game.

Russell Martin then stepped to the plate with the game on the line and delivered. After seeing five pitches from Betances, he, like Encarnacion, got the best of his knuckle curve, ripping a ground ball down the line, proving to be too much for Chase Headley.

Martin cashed two runs and Brett Cecil closed it out in the ninth, en route to a 3-1 victory.

5) May 26th – The Three-Run Miracle

When trailing by two going into the final frame, there is little hope. Especially when the closer on the other side is one of elite stature. Well, on May 26, Toronto got the best of David Robertson, who registered 39 saves in 2014.

The ninth inning led off with Josh Thole, who capped off a 3-for-4 night with a single to right field. Reyes then doubled to right centre off a 93-MPH fastball.

With runners in scoring position, Josh Donaldson stepped to the plate, and the rest is history.

Donaldson’s second walk-off blast of the season brought the Blue Jays a 10-9 W. Not to be forgotten here was the game Bautista had, who went 3-for-4 with three doubles and drove in five.

6) May 29th – Italian Stallion Strikes Again

Just three days later the Blue Jays were at it again with late game heroics. This time from Colabello.

With the game deadlocked at four runs apiece, Martin drew a seven-pitch walk. Up stepped Colabello with his eight-game hit streak on the line.

Minnesota let Colabello walk in the offseason, and it came back to bite them in this one. Don’t you love when that happens? Mark Buehrle came on to pitch in the ninth for his first complete game of the season.

7) June 7th: The Strangest Walk-Off Win in MLB

Another two-run deficit in the ninth, another win for Toronto.

Skipper Gibbons pinch-hit Munenori Kawasaki for Ryan Goins in the ninth, and it more than worked.

Munenori slashed a ground-rule double down the left field line to kick things off.

Jose Reyes then battled a five-pitch at-bat, singling up the middle to score Kawasaki, making it a one-run game. After Josh Donaldson lined out to left, Reyes stole second with Bautista at the plate.

Then one of the weirdest things I have seen on a baseball diamond happened. Jose Bautista hit a pop up to second base, shortstop Villar tracked it but had no idea of the location of Reyes. Villar ended up tripping over Jose, the ball dropped, and everyone was safe.


Photo by Frank Gunn/ The Canadian Press

At this point, Toronto could feel momentum shifting their way.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out to argue that Reyes made no attempt at getting out of the way, but the call stood. Jose had a right to second base, therefore interference could not be called. Double Joses on base? Double steal. Reyes and Bautista put themselves in scoring position with not only a chance to tie the game, but to win it. With 35,571 people on their feet, and trying to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, Colabello dug-in.

The Italian shot a 1-2 slider back through the middle, bringing some magic to the Rogers Centre, and taking a 7-6 victory out of the hands of the Astros. His response?

True Will Ferrell in Old School fashion.

Toronto now sits 4.5 games back of the Yankees and 3.0 games back of a wild card spot.

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