TORONTO — A six-run rally in the eighth inning, highlighted by a grand slam from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. — and a three-run walk-off homer from Marcus Semien in the ninth — pushed the Blue Jays over the Oakland Athletics for a wild comeback win on Friday.
The two late-game homers gave the Blue Jays a dramatic 11-10 victory in the opener of the critical weekend series.
After Gurriel sent the crowd of 14,843 into a frenzy at Rogers Centre with his first-pitch, game-tying bomb to left field, the Athletics roared back in the ninth to take a two-run lead.
But Semien smashed his career-high 34th down the left-field line after a single from Breyvic Valera and George Springer’s double put runners on second and third to open the ninth.
The Blue Jays (71-62) and Oakland (74-61) are chasing the Boston Red Sox for the second wild-card spot in the American League. The Athletics entered the evening two games behind the Red Sox, while Toronto was five back.
Athletics right fielder Mark Canha slammed a two-out homer off Jordan Romano that hit the left-field foul pole. It was the first runs the Toronto reliever has given up in 11 outings.
Oakland punished rookie Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah for his patch of wildness. Manoah hit back-to-back batters to spark a two-run fifth inning for the Athletics.
With the game deadlocked at 2-2, Manoah opened the fifth by hitting Josh Harrison in the arm and Starling Marte in the head.
Marte stayed down as the Athletics training staff attended to the fallen centre fielder. He remained in the game and, along with Harrison, scored on Matt Olson’s double to right field.
Harrison was animated after he was hit and once again exhibited his anger after his teammate was struck. This display raised the ire of the Blue Jays faithful.
Harrison enjoyed the attention, flashing a huge grin after reaching base on a seventh-inning error from Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette. The Athletics second baseman also did a mock bow after he grounded out to third in the eighth.
Meanwhile, Manoah walked Canha to begin the sixth inning, and Tony Kemp clubbed a two-run shot to break the game open.
Manoah left the game after the Kemp homer. He lasted five-plus innings with three walks, two strikeouts, five hits and six runs.
Oakland starter Sean Manaea pitched on six days rest because Frankie Montas had visa issues to cross the border into Canada. So Athletics manager Bob Melvin moved Montas to pitch in Manea’s spot in Detroit on Thursday.
Manaea was effective. He went seven innings, striking out nine, allowing only five hits and giving up a two-run homer to Teoscar Hernandez to left in the fourth inning that tied the game at 2-2.
The Athletics staked their starter a two-run advantage in the first inning. Harrison and Marte each singled to left to start the game, and they scored on Matt Chapman’s double to left field.
With Oakland leading 6-2, young Blue Jays pitcher Nate Pearson was summoned from the bullpen. He was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday, where he has spent the past three months rehabbing from groin problems.
Pearson was not sharp, surrendering two more runs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 3, 2021.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press