Trailing 7-3 after Boston scored two in the top of the sixth, it appeared that Toronto’s modest three-game winning streak was going to come to an end. Even when they rallied to bring the game level at 8-8 heading into the ninth, long-time Blue Jays nemesis David Ortiz hit a solo shot to give the Red Sox the lead as they turned the ball over to dominant closer Craig Kimbrel.
A valiant effort appeared like it still wouldn’t be enough.
Kimbrel got the first two batters out with little trouble, inducing a pop-up from Edwin Encarnacion and getting Michael Saunders on a swing-and-miss strikeout. Down to their final out, Toronto found a way.
Justin Smoak laced a single up the middle and was replaced on first base by pinch runner Ezequiel Carrera. The speedy sub stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Boston catcher Christian Vasquez before Russell Martin cashed him in with a double to deep center.
After a Kimbrel wild pitch allowed the Canadian backstop to advance to third, Devon Travis hit a sharp ball to third and hustled down the line, prompting a hurried throw from Travis Shaw. As the Blue Jays second baseman hit the bag, Martin crossed the plate and the game was over.
10-9 Blue Jays – a walk-off win over their first-place rivals. Four straight wins. It’s all happening.
A couple months ago, this wouldn’t have happened. Marcus Stroman’s shaky start would have resulted in a loss, with the offense failing to muster the hits needed to mount a comeback and Ortiz’ homer serving as a crippling blow to a team that worked so hard to claw their way back.
But now, there is an energy and belief coursing through this team that made Saturday afternoon’s comeback possible. They’re not quite at the point they were last year where battling back to win a game like this felt probable, but the pieces are starting to come together in that way again.
Josh Donaldson had a monster game on Friday. Martin has come to life in the last three games. Travis has joined the team and started contributing right away, hitting just under .300 in his first four games while knocking in three.
The hitters are picking up the pitchers when they have less than stellar outings and the pitchers are carrying the hitters when the bats just can’t connect. Everything is starting to come together and this team is starting to take shape.
Player of the Game: Russell Martin
This has got to feel real good for Russell Martin.
For most of the first two months, the Canadian catcher has struggled at the dish, batting below .200, striking out a bunch and failing to come through in pivotal situations, but over the last week, his bat has come to life. After connecting on his first two home runs of the year in New York, he was one of the key contributors to Toronto’s come-from-behind victory on Saturday.
Martin went 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and three RBI and three runs scored, crossing the plate in the sixth, eighth and the ninth, when he scampered home from third to give the Jays the win. While his average still sits a couple pennies shy of .200, it’s significantly higher than it was to start the week, as is Martin’s confidence and that is a very good thing for Toronto.
On Deck: The series wraps up with a familiar face taking the mound for the Red Sox, as David Price (7-1, 5.34) makes his first start at Rogers Centre since leaving the Jays in the offseason. He beat Toronto earlier in the year in Boston, scattering six hits over seven innings while striking out nine. The home side counters with R.A. Dickey (2-6, 4.60).