Blue Jays 7 Phillies 4
TORONTO — On day when Jose Bautista was named an all-star with a record number of votes, the Blue Jays slugger proved his fans right.
Bautista blasted his major league-leading 27th home run to lift Toronto over Philadelphia in a 7-4 win Sunday afternoon and avoid a sweep by the Phillies.
The victory for Toronto (41-44) also cooled off Phillies lefty Cliff Lee, who came into the game with a smoking-hot ERA and win streak, having surrendered a measly one earned run over his last five outings.
But Lee’s day unravelled in the eighth when Eric Thames tied the game with a no-doubt solo shot over the centre-field wall on the first pitch he saw.
That set up Bautista’s heroics when he blasted Lee’s 2-1 fastball to his usual sweet spot over the left field wall, sending the 26,204 at Rogers Centre into a frenzy.
“For Eric to come out and start an inning like that was huge,” said Bautista.
“I was able to follow it up and it was a good feeling in the dugout.”
After Bautista cleared the bases, Adam Lind singled before Edwin Encarnacion went deep on a 91 m.p.h. fastball and all of a sudden the Blue Jays had a three-run cushion.
“He’s a freak,” Thames said about Bautista. “He’s always trying to get better, always trying to learn and that’s what separates him from other big leaguers.”
Bautista received a record 7,454,753 fan votes, a total surpassing the previous mark of 6,069,688 set by Ken Griffey Jr. in 1994. He’s the first Blue Jay to lead voting for the game and the first Toronto player to be voted to the game since first baseman Carlos Delgado in 2003.
“It’s something I will always appreciate from the fans but I’m not going to get too caught up in it,” said Bautista. “We’ve got to keeping doing well and see where we stand in the standings at the end of the season.”
Encarnacion’s dinger brought out the hook for Lee as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel replaced him with Michael Stutes.
Lee (9-6) was tagged for 10 hits and seven runs (six earned) over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked none. Over five starts in June, Lee was 5-0 and hadn’t loss since May 31 at Washington.
“I felt like they were decent pitches to be honest with you, but obviously that doesn’t matter, the results are what matter,” said Lee. “They were able to chip away a few runs throughout the game and then had a big eighth inning.”
The game capped a Canada Day weekend where the atmosphere at Rogers Centre was electric despite two straight defeats. Former Jays ace Roy Halladay made his long-awaited return to Toronto and the 89,590 fans over Friday and Saturday was the largest two-day crowd at Rogers Centre since July 22-23, 2006 (92,351).
“You get to this point in July, all-star weekend is coming, and guys are starting to get a little fatigued,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “The energy gave us a boost, gave us a lift. Hopefully that’s a glimpse or a vision of what lies ahead for us. But at the same time, we need to care of our part in that and that’s continue to win ball games.”
Reyes, looking for his first career victory against Philadelphia (53-32), finished with eight hits and four runs through six innings of work. He walked two batters and didn’t register a single strikeout. Octavio Dotel (2-1) came in the eighth and pitched 1 1-3 innings to pick up the win.
“I didn’t have a really good cutter today so I just battled with whatever I had out there, pretty good sinker and change-up, and made them put it in play,” said Reyes. “Luckily we had eight guys behind me that were able to make some plays.”
The Jays made it 4-3 in the sixth when Bautista started a rally with a rocket through the gap between second and third.
Lind pushed him to third with a single before Juan Rivera pumped one to centre field that didn’t look deep enough to score Bautista on a sac fly. However, when Shane Victorino tried to make the throw home to hold Bautista, the Phillies outfielder stumbled awkwardly before doing a face plant that allowed the Jays star to score.
Victorino would stay in the game and hit a double to the right-field corner off left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski the following inning.
Lee had already whiffed eight batters, including catcher J.P. Arencibia who started off the inning, by the time Rajai Davis reached first with a base hit in the fifth. The quick-footed outfielder proceeded to swipe second and third before Aaron Hill’s RBI single halved Philadelphia’s lead.
After Lee struck out the side in the second, Davis started the third by grooving the first pitch he saw deep into right centre for a triple. John McDonald got him home with a groundout to short, snapping Lee’s 34-inning shutout streak — second longest in Phillies history — while shaving a run off the Blue Jays’ deficit to make it 4-1.
Reyes started well with a three-up, three-down first inning but got into trouble quickly in the second. Victorino lined a double down the left-field line that a fan got a piece of and then Ben Francisco drilled a single to centre, giving the speedy outfielder time to round third and come home.
Right-fielder Domonic Brown then singled on an 0-1 pitch to the exact same centre field spot, pushing Francisco to second.
That set up catcher Carlos Ruiz’s ground rule double to deep left, bringing home Francisco and loading the bases with one out. Reyes got third baseman Wilson Valdez to foul out, but Jimmy Rollins caused some damage when he singled in Brown and Ruiz, and the Jays were down 4-0 before designated hitter Placido Polanco popped out to end the inning.
“We scored four runs in the second inning and we had a chance to really blow the game open I felt like,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “We weren’t able to score a run after that and started making mistakes. That’s kind of what happened.”
Rivera’s RBI will be his last for Toronto for the foreseeable future. The outfielder was designated for assignment after the game and will be replaced by Travis Snider.