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Must C Clutch: Escobar walk-off gives Blue Jays a win

TORONTO -- Yunel Escobar probably doesn't want to quit his day job anytime soon, but if he's looking for a second career, then maybe he should give fortunetelling a try.

A bold prediction from the Blue Jays shortstop on Tuesday preceded a dramatic come-from-behind victory over the A's. With his club trailing 5-0 in the middle innings, Escobar told teammates Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Encarnacion that things wouldn't stay that way for long -- and he would be a big reason why.

Escobar's statement turned into a reality when he hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Toronto a 7-6 victory.

"I mentioned I was going to win this game for us tonight," Escobar said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "When we started getting closer, I got the feeling that if we continue to play and tie the game, I was going to win this game."

The Blue Jays entered the bottom of the 10th trailing by a run after right-hander Jason Frasor surrendered a solo homer to Josh Willingham in the top half of the inning.

With closer Brian Fuentes unavailable to pitch due to a blister, Oakland called upon veteran reliever Grant Balfour to finish the game. He allowed a leadoff single up the middle to Rajai Davis before Escobar stepped into the box.

Balfour attempted to throw a first-pitch fastball low to the outer part of the plate, but he left it up in the zone and Escobar pounced. He drove the ball into right field, just over the outstretched glove of David DeJesus and into the bullpen.

"I couldn't have worked it any better for them, I guess," Balfour said. "A hit, a bomb, they walk off with the win. It's definitely not the way I saw it going out there. I felt good, and I'm just annoyed at myself for not executing a couple of pitches.

"Obviously, I just left a fastball up there, and it was a good piece of hitting. I tip my hat, I have to be better there. I was trying to keep the ball down."

The 10th-inning turnaround was a continuation of the uphill battle the Blue Jays faced for most of the game. They fell behind early after left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes got roughed up during his first outing in a Toronto uniform.

Reyes allowed five runs on nine hits while striking out three. Most of that damage occurred with two outs in the top of the third inning. The 26-year-old surrendered three doubles and a pair of singles during a three-run inning.

Things didn't get much better the following frame. Reyes allowed three of the first four batters to reach base, was relieved for Villanueva, and the Blue Jays were behind 5-0.

"Just left a couple of balls up and they executed on it," Reyes said. "It's not the way I wanted to start, but it's over with now and I start preparation for the next start tomorrow."

Toronto began its first comeback with a run in the bottom of the fourth off A's starter Brandon McCarthy, then they added four in the sixth inning -- thanks in part to a series of defensive miscues.

Davis, who was playing in his first game since suffering a right ankle injury on Friday, got things started with a leadoff double. Three singles and two errors later, the Blue Jays and A's were tied at 5.

That inning spoiled an otherwise impressive start by McCarthy, who made his first start since Oct. 2, 2009. McCarthy was charged with four earned runs on eight hits over eight innings.

Villanueva, David Purcey, Shawn Camp and Jon Rauch combined to throw 5 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball to send the game into extra innings. Villanueva said he was just following the marching orders he received from Escobar.

"When I came in my first inning, he said, 'You know what, just keep the game [close] and I'm going to find a way to win tonight,'" said Villanueva, who struck out three over 2 2/3 innings. "It's fitting that he's the one."

The walk-off victory occurred just two days after the Blue Jays almost accomplished the same feat against the Twins. During that game, Toronto scored one run in the ninth and loaded the bases off closer Joe Nathan.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said it's that type of resiliency that bodes well as his ballclub moves forward.

"It can only help us continue to believe in ourselves and continue to grow," Farrell said. "We saw it the other night, we were one swing away from a walk-off, and once again, here it is, coming from behind after giving up the lead.

"It's a group that likes to play the game, they believe in one another, they work very well together, they work hard and they are to the point where there is nothing that's thrown in front of them that's insurmountable." Comments