TORONTO -- If the Blue Jays are looking to leave a lasting impression as they enter the final days of the season, Monday night’s matchup against the Orioles offered a little bit of everything through its 15 innings to get the club’s final homestand started at Rogers Centre.
Toronto got out to an early five-run lead that was squandered by the fourth inning, as nine different players launched long balls in what became a pseudo home run derby between the two teams. The Blue Jays mounted multiple late-inning comebacks, the first sending the game to extra innings and the second tying it back up in the 12th.
Anthony Alford ultimately decided the game with the first home run of his Major League career, a two-out solo shot in the 15th to give Toronto the 11-10 victory.
“It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Everybody was so happy for him. And his first one, a walk-off, that was awesome to see. It seems like every time he came up to the plate, everybody was saying, ‘Here we go, here comes a walk-off,’ and he ended up doing it, so it was great. It was great to see Anthony do that and a great party in there, because he deserves it.”
The 25-year-old outfielder only got a chance to end the game after the Blue Jays drew even twice after falling behind the Orioles. In the ninth inning, Toronto used three singles and a sacrifice fly to drive in two runs, sending the contest into extra frames. In the 12th, the home team evened up the score once more with a sac fly.
Alford became the second player in Major League history to hit a walk-off homer for his first career long ball, joining Giants hitter Valmy Thomas, who did so on May 11, 1957.
“[I was] all smiles,” Alford said. “I was trying to hold my smile as best I could, but it was pretty tough. It was my first-ever walk-off, so it felt pretty good.”
Battling through multiple injuries throughout the season, the speedy outfielder got into 76 games at Triple-A Buffalo this year -- where he totaled seven homers -- before joining the expanded Blue Jays roster in September and playing in 14 contests.
“I really just try to enjoy the moment,” said Alford, who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the ninth. “Because honestly, you never know when it will happen again. So I was really just trying to enjoy the moment, and any time I get a chance to be in between the lines I just try to have fun and help the team win.”
That’s exactly what he did, much to the excitement and relief of his teammates.
“That’s why you play the game of baseball,” said starter Clay Buchholz, who exited the marathon matchup after four-plus innings. “You want guys on the same team as you who have that heart, that drive.
“Late in the ballgame, obviously everybody knows it’s late, there are not a whole lot of people in the stands, and you’ve got to play for you and your team and that’s what it shows. He loves the game, he loves playing, and he’s good at it. It’s cool to see somebody get their shot and then something like this to happen for them. It’s awesome.”
Randal Grichuk got the home run party started in the bottom of the first with a three-run shot to left field, his 31st of the season. The 28-year-old outfielder continued the success he’s had against Baltimore this year, hitting .333 (17-for-51) with seven homers, six doubles and 15 RBIs in 14 games vs. the Orioles.
Brandon Drury and Jonathan Davis extended Toronto’s early lead with back-to-back jacks to lead off the bottom of the second frame. Drury’s long ball was his 15th of the year, while Davis’ homer was his second of the season.
After four home runs from the visiting side combined to give the Orioles seven runs and a temporary lead, Cavan Biggio tied the game with his 16th home run of the season in the seventh inning, also his sixth against the O’s. After walking in the opening frame -- one of three free passes for Biggio on the night -- the 24-year-old second baseman extended his on-base streak to 24 games, the third-longest such stretch by a rookie in franchise history.
Over that time, Biggio has hit .326 (28-for-86) with six home runs, six doubles, two triples, 22 runs scored, 17 driven in and 21 walks. Entering play on Monday, the Houston native’s .359 on-base percentage ranked third among American League rookies and fourth all time by a Toronto rookie.
Monday’s finish was Toronto’s eighth walk-off victory of the season, and after five hours and 21 minutes, it became the Blue Jays’ longest contest of the year.
“I didn’t expect to come into the [ninth] inning and get three at-bats,” Alford said. “I was pulling for one of my teammates to really walk it off a few innings before, because I was ready to get home, but I was glad to enjoy that moment.”