Dramatic comeback lifts Blue Jays
After four-run seventh, Rolen provides walk-off in ninth
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston spoke at length to reporters prior to Tuesday's game against Baltimore about the need for his offense to find key hits with men on base.
He also mentioned that despite Toronto's tough upcoming schedule against divisional rivals, there was also a chance to leap-frog teams ahead in the standings, provided the Jays can start winning.
In Tuesday's game, the Jays were able to make happen everything that Gaston spoke about, and then some, as they mounted their largest comeback of the season to defeat the Orioles, 7-6, at Rogers Centre. The win also provided the home crowd with a flair for the dramatic, as Scott Rolen's ninth-inning ground ball went through the legs of shortstop Freddie Bynum, to cash in the winning run and give the Jays (43-47) their first walk-off victory of the season.
"We needed a game like that," Gaston said. "A come-from-behind-win, with a big hit in the ballgame. And everything happened tonight that we talked about this afternoon, as far as getting this ballclub rolling."
The win came in the first of a six-game homestand for the Jays against American League East rivals. After the three-game set against the Orioles, the Jays will host the Yankees for three games, leading up to the All-Star break beginning on Monday. Both New York and Baltimore (44-44) sit directly above the Jays in the standings, at second and third-place, respectively.
"Let's hope a win like this can start this homestand on a good note," said Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"Obviously, we haven't played well lately, or for that matter, most of the year, but hopefully we can finish up the first half on a good note and go on to the All-Star break with our heads held high and start the second half the way that we want to."
A win for the Jays did not look likely during most of Tuesday's game. The Toronto offense was pretty much handcuffed by Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera through the first six innings.
In the seventh frame, though, trailing by a score of 6-2, the Jays batted around, erupting for four runs to tie the game.
Following two singles and a walk in the seventh, the Jays had loaded the bases for Alex Rios with two outs. Rios then proceeded to launch a pitch from Orioles reliever Dennis Sarfate into the left-center-field gap for a triple that cleared the bases and cut the score to 6-5.
Then, Wells promptly lined a ball deep into the hole at shortstop, for an infield single, that tied the game.
"Lexi got a big hit for us," said Jays closer B.J. Ryan (2-3), who collected the victory. "That was huge, it kind of got some confidence back in the dugout and some confidence with us back in the bullpen where we said, 'You know, if we can throw up a couple zeros, we'll see what happens.'"
The Jays bullpen was able to keep the Orioles off the board in the eighth and ninth innings, paving the way for Toronto to complete its comeback win.
In the Jays' half of the ninth, with the score still knotted at 6, Rios reached base with a walk and then promptly stole second base. Because of a wild throw from Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez, Rios advanced to third and was eventually able to score on Rolen's ground ball that confused the Baltimore shortstop.
Much of the talk in the Jays clubhouse was centered on Rios.
"I think you can see what speed can do in a game," Wells said. "[Rios] gets a triple there and scores on an infield hit. Then in the ninth, he steals a bag, the ball goes away and he gets to third. That puts a little bit more pressure on the defense.
"His speed can do so many different things in this game and affect our team in so many ways. That's the kind of player that he is."
By overcoming a four-run deficit, the Jays were able to stage their largest comeback win of the season. As well, even more telling was the fact that entering Tuesday, the Jays were 0-35 in games this season where they were trailing after seven innings.
"When you look at the numbers, we haven't really come back too often, so this win is a huge one," said Wells. "We need a bunch more like this because in order for us to get back in this thing, we have to win a bunch of them and a lot of them in a row.
"Hopefully this is the start."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.