PHILADELPHIA -- It was another anxiety inducing half-inning for the Blue Jays. Except this one ended in smiles and sighs of relief.Dennis Tepera worked himself into and out of a ninth-inning jam as the Blue Jays narrowly beat the Phillies, 6-5, Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. The back of
PHILADELPHIA -- It was another anxiety inducing half-inning for the Blue Jays. Except this one ended in smiles and sighs of relief.
Dennis Tepera worked himself into and out of a ninth-inning jam as the Blue Jays narrowly beat the Phillies, 6-5, Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. The back of Toronto's bullpen avoided another late-inning collapse as the team held on for a much-needed win.
"It's been a tough stretch for this team," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose team was 2-9 in its last 11 games entering Friday. "And we had trouble closing out some games in that last homestand, and [the Phillies] can come at you. They have good team speed, they can do a lot of things in this ballpark. I would say we desperately needed that. We needed to desperately close that out."
Tepera's first save of the season did not come easy. But, as he could point out with a laugh after the game, it was exciting.
The Blue Jays entered the bottom of the ninth with a 6-4 lead, but Tepera gave up a single to Jorge Alfaro and a double to Pedro Florimon with one out. Alfaro scored on a wild pitch and Tepera loaded the bases by walking Aaron Altherr and Cesar Hernandez.
The Phillies, down by a run, had Rhys Hoskins at the plate and Odubel Herrera on deck.
Tepera clamped down after a mound visit. He struck out Hoskins on a 2-2 fastball that just caught the outside corner for the biggest out of the game.
"I pounded him in, in, in the whole at-bat. I needed to make a pitch, something different," Tepera said. "... It was something where we could surprise him there. Execute the pitch down and away, it was going to work, and it did."
Tepera got Herrera to ground out to second to end the game.
"It was fun. I got the job done. I like to make things interesting, at least, I'll say," Tepera said.
The save for Tepera comes after the Blue Jays' bullpen blew a pair of multi-run leads in the last week. With closer Roberto Osuna on administrative leave after he was charged with assault, the Blue Jays are in the process of figuring out the back end of their bullpen.
"It's not as easy as everyone thinks to close out games at the big league level," Gibbons said, "but [Tepera] stepped up tonight."
Tepera preserved a win for Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio, who went six innings during his second start of the season. Gaviglio gave up just three hits, but two of them were homers from Carlos Santana and opposing starter Zach Eflin.
The Blue Jays hit Eflin hard to jump out to a 6-1 lead. They scored three in the first as Yangervis Solarte and Kevin Pillar hit back-to-back doubles. Toronto added three more runs in the fifth, with Justin Smoak supplying two runs via homer.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hernandez starts the rally:Teoscar Hernandez started the Blue Jays rally in the first inning when he drove home the game's first run on a sharply hit infield single with two outs. The play was initially ruled a throwing error on Florimon, but was changed to a single after it was determined Hernandez would've beaten the throw to first. Hernandez finished with two hits.
Solarte and Pillar had consecutive RBI doubles in the first inning that both left the bat harder than 108 mph, according to Statcast™. Solarte's knock down the right-field line was 108.7 mph while Pillar's hit to left had a 111.1-mph exit velocity.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Smoak's homer off Eflin went a projected 414 feet to center field and had a 103.8-mph exit velocity. It was his third homer in 11 games and seventh of the season. That mark ties Smoak with Hernandez for the second-most on the team. Solarte leads the Blue Jays with 11 homers.
HE SAID IT
"It was funny, Teoscar and I were talking before the game. I asked him what he thought I'd get with two strikes ... Teoscar helped me out." -- Gaviglio, on his double (on a 2-2 count) in his first plate appearance of the season
Jaime Garcia will return to the mound Saturday for the Blue Jays in the middle game of a three-game set in Philadelphia at 4:05 p.m. ET. Garcia, who has a 6.28 ERA in eight starts this season, has not pitched since May 15 and was on the 10-day disabled list with left shoulder inflammation. Aaron Nola will get the start for the Phillies.
** Stephen Pianovich ** is a contributor to MLB.com based in Philadelphia.