TORONTO -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. took an early step to making the most of his Major League stint this time around.Just one day after being called up from Triple-A Buffalo, Gurriel proved to be the difference for the Blue Jays, hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning to
TORONTO -- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. took an early step to making the most of his Major League stint this time around.
Just one day after being called up from Triple-A Buffalo, Gurriel proved to be the difference for the Blue Jays, hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning to lift Toronto to an 8-6 victory over the Mets Tuesday night and spoil Jose Bautista's return to Rogers Centre.
"The kid has a ton of talent," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Gurriel. "He can hit, he's athletic. He can run. He can do all of those things. I think he's going to be a good player, a very good player."
Toronto plans to give Gurriel an extended look in the Majors this time around after calling him up twice earlier this year, most recently during a three-day stint in June.
"I feel a little bit more comfortable, and more confident," Gurriel said through a translator. "The first couple times I was up, it really helped me a lot, and now it's just the game slowed down a little bit, and I just feel better now."
Gurriel was sent down earlier in the season after hitting .206 in 20 games with Toronto, but the 24-year-old figures to be key part of the Blue Jays' future. The team has used him at both middle infield positions this season, and there's even an outside chance that he could eventually see time in the outfield, where he previously played in Cuba.
"It makes perfect sense to let [Gurriel] learn in the big leagues," Gibbons said. "He was playing good down there in Triple-A, and of course he answered with that big home run tonight."
Gurriel's late-inning heroics were made possible by a seventh-inning rally sparked by Randal Grichuk, who chased Mets starter Zack Wheeler from the game with a line-drive single. With Wheeler out, Toronto capitalized, scoring five runs, including a game-tying three-run home run by birthday boy Yangervis Solarte.
"We've got to give [Wheeler] credit, he pitched a good game," Solarte said through a translator. "I think we missed a lot of chances too, mostly early in the game, but you know, he came out and we just took a chance on their bullpen."
John Axford picked up the victory after coming in to pitch a scoreless eighth inning before coming back to get two outs in the ninth. With Dennis Tepera on the 10-day disabled list, Gibbons turned to Tyler Clippard, who closed out the game for Toronto to register his sixth save of the season.
Toronto's bullpen was forced to throw 8 2/3 innings after Marco Estrada exited the game with left hip soreness after just 12 pitches. Estrada was sent for X-rays, which came back negative, but the official diagnosis won't be known until after an MRI examination.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Seventh-inning comeback: Solarte helped erase a five-run deficit in the seventh by hitting his team-leading 16th home run of the season, and his second career home run on his birthday. The three-run shot helped propel Toronto to its biggest comeback victory of the season. The Blue Jays now have 22 come-from-behind victories.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bautista made his long-awaited return to Toronto, where he played 10 seasons, hitting 288 home runs, the second-most in franchise history. He received a standing ovation from the fans prior to the game, and as he walked to the plate in the first inning, the fans rose again chanting his name. He doffed his helmet and waved to his longtime hometown fans. The 37-year-old finished the night with three walks and a single in five plate appearances.
The Blue Jays will close out the two-game series with the Mets on Wednesday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Marcus Stroman (1-5, 6.02) takes the mound for Toronto with an opportunity to face his former teammate Bautista. Stroman has pitched well in two starts since returning from the DL, giving up just one run over 12 innings. The Mets counter with Corey Oswalt (0-1, 9.82), who will make his second Major League start.
** Aaron Rose ** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.