Known for power, Blue Jays win with speed
Pompey races home on fielder's choice, while Pillar nearly scores behind him
BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays often do most of their damage with the long ball, but in Monday's 4-3 victory over the Orioles, they also showed an ability to manufacture some runs which could prove to be crucial during the postseason.
With the win, the Blue Jays took a one-game lead over the Royals for the best record in the American League and also lowered their magic number for clinching the AL East to two games.
Toronto was trailing, 3-1, heading into the eighth inning, but four singles within the span of five at-bats quickly evened the score. The final blow came in the ninth when Dioner Navarro and Kevin Pillar led off with singles and were then bunted into scoring position.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons often isn't a fan of giving up outs to lay down bunts, but in this case, it worked perfectly. Justin Smoak followed in the next at-bat with a slow little grounder to first that was hit weak enough to allow pinch-runner Dalton Pompey to score from third.
"I was all in on the changeup and he threw the heater," Smoak said of Orioles right-hander Brad Brach, who allowed the winning run. "Sometimes you get lucky.
"It was a good read by [Pompey]. A guy that can run like that, as soon as he saw it wasn't going anywhere, he took off and was able to get in there."
When Smoak's grounder was fielded by first baseman Chris Davis it appeared there wouldn't be a play at the plate, but Davis tried anyway. That almost turned out to be a big mistake as his throw sailed well over the head of catcher Matt Wieters and bounced off the backstop.
Pillar rounded third and immediately took off for home once he saw the miscue. Brach was late covering home, which ultimately led to a foot race between Pillar and Wieters. Pillar went to the left side of the plate and made a dive while attempting to clip the base with his right hand.
Wieters also dove and the end result was a bang-bang play at home. Pillar immediately motioned safe while Wieters held up the ball for umpire Joe West, who made the out call. Gibbons disagreed and asked for the play to be reviewed, but after a brief review, the call on the field was confirmed.
That didn't sit well with Pillar, who after the game said he never felt the tag and despite looking at all of the replays afterwards, felt there wasn't a definitive angle that showed he was out.
"I watched the replay and you cannot tell if he tagged me or not," Pillar said. "I don't know if [West] was in the best position to make it, I'm not upset at his original call, but I feel like the replay system is still in place to possibly protect each other instead of getting the call right, unless it's obvious to the naked eye. For them to confirm it, shocked me a little bit. To say you couldn't really tell would be one thing, but it is what it is."
Instead of two possible runs on the play the Blue Jays settled for one, but that's all they would need. Left-hander Brett Cecil and closer Roberto Osuna combined to pitch a clean ninth as Toronto saw its magic number to clinch the division drop to two.
For Baltimore, it was a game that slipped away.
"I got ahead of both Pillar and Navarro," Brach said. "I was feeling good, but unfortunately they got hits there. That pitch to Pillar, it's just got to be down a little bit more with guys on base, and once you get first and second, obviously the sac bunt.
"The pitch to Smoak, he hit it just slow enough to score the run. They've got some quick runners out there. Those first two hitters, I've got to put them away [early] in the count."