TORONTO — The Blue Jays’ brief power outage at the plate is over, judging from a wild and woolly 10-8 win over the Cleveland Indians that saw five Toronto home runs.
“Hopefully some people can step off the ledge a little bit,” pitcher Mark Buehrle said dryly after Toronto (1-2) finally found the 2013 win column.
While local baseball fans fretted and sports talk shows hosts whipped up debate, the Jays were loosey-goosey going into Thursday’s series finale against the Indians (2-1). The tunes were cranked up in the clubhouse prior to batting practice.
“Two games don’t make your season,” said catcher J.P. Arencibia, who homered twice on the night in going 3-for-4. “No one’s worried about it here. Everyone knows what we have in this clubhouse.”
Toronto also got homers from Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus as the Blue Jays bats came alive.And the home team showed off its newly acquired speed and hustle on the basepaths in the form of Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio, who also provided dazzling fielding.
“That’s just an overall sample of what we can bring to the table when individuals do what they’re capable of doing,” said Bautista, nursing a sore right ankle after legging out a double play in the eighth. “We had some guys hit home runs and some guys ran the bases great. Some real defensive plays as well, we got the clutch hits when we needed them.”
It was a back-and-forth game of long ball with homers, most of them moonshots, accounting for 10 of the runs.
“I’ve always said home runs win in this business, at this level, and tonight’s the perfect example,” said Jays manager John Gibbons. “Yeah, it was an emotional up and down, simply because we were looking for our first win to be honest with you.”
It didn’t come easy. Like a cheap slasher movie maniac, the Indians refused to stop coming at the Jays.
Cleveland outhit Toronto 14-9 and had the bases loaded with two outs in the eighth and the score 9-8 before Bonifacio ended the comeback with a tough throw to first.
“Bonnie made a great play,” said Gibbons. “He showed what kind of arm he’s got. The first thing that flashes through your mind is ’Oh oh,’ but good players make good big plays.”
Toronto scored an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Bautista beat out the double play, allowing Reyes to score — punishing Indian reliever Matt Albers for a pair of one-out walks. Bautista late said he jammed his ankle on the bag.
Closer Casey Janssen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth — with two strikeouts to get the save. He threw 12 pitches including nine strikes and looked nasty.
There could be more drama Friday as the Jays open a three-game series against the visiting Boston Red Sox and former manager John Farrell.
Toronto used six pitchers both Wednesday and Thursday, leaving Gibbons wondering about what’s left for Friday.
“It was a big game to win, to be honest with you, because we’re going to be a little short-handed tomorrow night for sure in the bullpen with that extra inning game (Wednesday) night and the way they were used tonight,” said Gibbons. “We definitely need some innings out of Josh (Friday starter Josh Johnson).”
Attendance was 19,515, compared to the Opening Day sellout of 48,857 and Wednesday’s 24,619. Those in the stands Thursday got their money’s worth.
The game had a bit of everything, from slick fielding to raw power at the plate.
The five Toronto home-run swings produced eight runs, almost tripling the Jays’ three-run output in 65 total at-bats over the first two games. Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds, with his second homer in as many nights, slammed second-deck home runs for Cleveland.
It was a night for the batters, although the pitchers ruled the third.
Starters Mark Buehrle and Cleveland’s Brett Myers (0-1) worked the inning like they had a favourite TV show to watch and had forgotten to set the DVR. It involved 11 pitches in total and lasted just seven minutes, according to one count.
Contrast that to the sixth inning.
Trailing 6-3, the Indians chased Buehrle by sending eight to the plate and scoring three runs to pull even at 6-6. The Jays countered by sending nine to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, homering twice and scoring three runs before Adam Lind flied to centre with the bases loaded.
The sound of bat on ball was music to the Jays’ ears.
Toronto managed just four hits in a 4-1 loss Tuesday and five in a 3-2 extra-innings defeat on Wednesday. Gibbons credited Cleveland’s pitching for shutting down his offence — a theory supported by the fact that the Indians bullpen held Toronto offence to 3-for-27, allowing just one earned run, over the first two games.
But that didn’t stop sport talk radio across the city from debating what’s wrong with the Jays.
One radio host started his show by pretending to talk his listeners off a window ledge. Another show opted to play Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”
Encarnacion set Toronto on its way with a three-run line-drive homer in the fifth for a 6-3 lead. A two-run homer by Bautista and a solo shot by Arencibia had accounted for the earlier Jays runs.
Buehrle surrendered back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning before exiting in the sixth. he gave up six runs on seven hits in his Toronto debut, striking out four, walking two and hitting two.
He was frustrated that he got himself in a jam by walking one Indian and hitting another to start the sixth after Encarnacion had given Toronto the lead.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “I need to do a better job.”
Steve Delabar (1-0), who finished out the sixth, got the win. Cleveland starter Brett Myers (0-1) took the loss after giving up seven runs on seven hits.