TORONTO -- The comeback kids were at it again on Sunday afternoon with their seventh come-from-behind victory of the year, a 5-4 win over the A’s in 11 innings at Rogers Centre. The latest was one of the most dramatic rallies yet.
Toronto entered the bottom of the 11th inning trailing by three. The game appeared to be over and fans were flooding for the exits. The ones who stuck around were treated to a three-run homer by Brandon Drury and a walk-off single from Justin Smoak to seal the improbable win off A’s closer Blake Treinen.
It was the first extra-innings victory of the year for Toronto, but late rallies are nothing new for this ballclub. The Blue Jays’ offense has been at its best after six innings, and the series finale was no exception. Toronto turned what appeared to be a loss into its second series sweep of the year, both of which came against the A’s.
“It’s awesome any time you can get a walk-off,” said Smoak, who leads the Blue Jays with 18 RBIs this season. “Especially in the position we were in there, against one of the best closers in the game. We had some big at-bats, a big homer and I was able to find a hole there at the end.”
The 11th inning started with a double off the top of the wall in left field by Rowdy Tellez. Alen Hanson followed with a walk, and two batters later, Drury tied the game with one swing of the bat. The first extra-innings home run of Drury’s career came on an 0-1 fastball, and it was sent a projected 397 feet after leaving his bat at 105.8 mph, according to Statcast.
Freddy Galvis followed with a single to right and catcher Danny Jansen walked to put a pair of runners on base for Eric Sogard, who flied out to left for the second out. That’s when Smoak stepped into the box, and he sent a 96.3 mph sinker to left field, which scored Galvis and gave the Blue Jays the win.
Smoak was the one who got swarmed on the field after the game, but it was Drury who deserved the most praise. All eight of his RBIs and all four of his home runs this season have come against the A’s. Drury is batting .500 (12-for-24) vs. Oakland this season compared to .125 (9-for-72) against everybody else.
“He’s just a better hitter than the .100 that he was hitting,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He’s going to get hot and he’s going to hit. To hit a three-run homer against one of the best closers in baseball, you have to be locked in.”
Right-hander Trent Thornton did not factor into the decision after he allowed one run on a pair of hits over five innings. Those numbers sound pretty good, but for the third consecutive start Thornton wasn’t nearly aggressive enough with his fastball. The Toronto rookie walked five and needed 103 pitches to get through five innings. The high pitch counts are at least one reason Thornton has yet to complete six innings in any of his six starts this season.
“He’s still not commanding his pitches, but he minimized damage today,” Montoyo said. “He made the big pitches when he had to, and he kept us in the game.”
Montoyo drew the ire from some fans on social media after he decided to pinch-run for rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the bottom of the ninth inning. Guerrero, who finished 1-for-4, hit a one-out single and was replaced by Hanson. Billy McKinney then hit into a fielder’s choice, and two batters later, Galvis struck out to send the game to extra innings.
The Blue Jays missed a prime scoring opportunity and then had to play the next two innings without Guerrero in the lineup. In the end, the move didn’t have a major impact as Hanson walked during his lone plate appearance, but it’s also something Montoyo said he intends to do again in the future when presented with similar circumstances.
“It’s just something that happens in the game -- he’s faster than I am,” Guerrero said through an interpreter after the game. “He probably would have scored on a double against the fence.”
By the numbers
It’s only April 28, but the Blue Jays have already wrapped up their season series vs. Oakland. Toronto won all six games, which marks just the third time in franchise history that the Blue Jays have swept a season series of six or more games. The only other two times it happened were in 2002, when Toronto went 6-0 vs. Detroit, and in 2008, when the Blue Jays went 6-0 against the Twins. The Blue Jays also find themselves back at .500 for the first time since March 31.
One reason behind the recent success has been the starting rotation. Toronto has received three consecutive starts of at least five innings with zero or one earned run and two or fewer hits allowed.
“Like I said, even in Spring Training, we have a young team but we have some really good players,” Smoak said. “Once they figure out how good they are, they have a chance to be really, really good players. It’s something that, yeah, there’s going to be ups and downs. But hopefully there are more ups than downs and hopefully we find a way to continue winning ballgames.”