04/23/09 12:36 AM ET
Millar's walk-off single wins it for Jays
Toronto overcomes shaky Ryan to even series
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On the mound was Texas righty Darren O'Day, but the name on the back of his jersey didn't match. O'Day -- without his own uniform after being claimed off waivers from the Mets earlier in the day -- was wearing a top reserved for left-hander Kason Gabbard. O'Day arrived to Toronto around 9:45 p.m. ET and was pitching a little more than an hour later.
"Gabbard?" Millar said with a laugh. "I thought that was a left-handed pitcher. He came in throwing a sinker ball, side-armed, right-handed. I was a little confused at first."
It didn't wind up making a difference. Millar sat on a slider and sent a 2-2 offering from O'Day bouncing into the left-center-field gap for a single -- a base hit that scored Vernon Wells to give the Blue Jays an 8-7 win over the Rangers in walk-off fashion.
That pushed Toronto's record to an American League East-best 11-5 and helped the club overcome another rough outing from closer B.J. Ryan. It was a satisfying conclusion to a game that included two home runs by Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas and an improved showing by starter David Purcey.
In the end, it featured a mob of Blue Jays bouncing together at home plate after another dramatic victory.
"Kevin Millar, the old veteran," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Hang out over the plate and just whips it."
Millar's late-inning heroics brought an end to a grueling game that the Blue Jays nearly let slip away. Toronto charged out to a 7-3 lead after six innings -- powered by a pair of two-run shots off the bat of Barajas -- but a rare lapse by setup man Scott Downs and a blown save by Ryan quickly pulled Texas back into the contest.
In the eighth inning, Downs entered the game for the Jays riding a streak of seven consecutive appearances without allowing a run. The left-hander gave up a leadoff double to Rangers third baseman Michael Young, who later crossed home plate on a fielder's-choice groundout to cut Toronto's lead to 7-4.
With a save situation now in play, manager Cito Gaston turned to Ryan, who had pieced together three strong outings in a row after a rough start to the season. The closer's prior woes resurfaced, with Ryan hitting Chris Davis with a pitch and issuing a walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to put runners on first and second base with no outs.
"You hit the first guy, walk the second guy and you're begging for trouble," Ryan said.
Texas' Ian Kinsler followed by chopping a pitch to shortstop Marco Scutaro, who relayed the ball to Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill to start a double play. Hill stepped on second for one out, but misfired to first base for a costly error, allowing Davis to score for Texas (6-8).
"You practice it all day long," Hill said. "You throw it right at his chest and it was just a bad play. It was unfortunate, because B.J. did his job. He did everything he was supposed to do. That probably gets us out of the inning."
Ryan wasn't about to put any of the blame on Hill.
"You put yourself into that situation," Ryan said. "On my side, I was terrible. I was brutal out there -- not pitching ahead, not pitching aggressively -- making stupid pitches at a bad time. It was just a bad night."
Josh Hamilton entered as a pinch-hitter and plated Kinsler with a groundout to short. Two pitches later, Young drilled an offering from Ryan into the center-field stands for a solo home run that knotted the score, 7-7.
"It's something that you just can't do -- shouldn't do -- but you do it," said Ryan, referring to the pitch to Young. "It is what it is. You hate it and it's terrible."
It was an outing that might have put Ryan's status as the team's closer at risk. Following the game, Gaston was noncommittal when asked if Ryan would get the nod when the next save opportunity came up for the Blue Jays.
"I'd say it's too early," Gaston said.
Young's blast effectively canceled out Barajas' two home runs -- both off Rangers starter Matt Harrison -- and also cost Purcey a chance at earning his first win of the season. Following a pair of poor outings, Purcey rebounded with 5 1/3 respectable innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with six strikeouts and two walks.
"He went out and threw strikes," Gaston said. "If he does that all the time, he has a chance to win."
Considering the way his evening went, to say Ryan was thrilled to see the Jays rally en route to a win would be an understatement.
"It was a great win by them," Ryan said. "It was good to see Rod swinging the bat and Purcey go out there and really grind after it against a good-hitting team. ... Whenever a team can come back and pick you up it shows a sign of a winning team.
"That shows a team that can dig deep and get after it when they need to. Tonight was a perfect example."
Millar echoed that sentiment.
"It was a big win. The guys battled all day today," Millar said. "That's the resilience of this team right now. I think guys believe and we're playing good baseball. It's a full team effort."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.