Danny does it all: Jansen gives Blue Jays walk-off win

August 30th, 2022

TORONTO -- Watching the Blue Jays’ offense can feel like following along as someone tries to open a pickle jar: Long periods of struggle and frustration, with little visible progress, until it just … pops open.

Danny Jansen was the one to yank the lid off on Monday.

The catcher hit a walk-off single in the 11th inning to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 win over the Cubs at Rogers Centre. He was also responsible for Toronto’s first three RBIs, with a three-run shot in the seventh that gave his team its first extra-base hit of the game.

“Sometimes it takes one inning, or one at-bat, or one game to get rolling,” said Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider. “And I think that’s kind of what we saw again tonight.”

For most of the night, Monday’s game looked like a continuation of the Blue Jays’ weekend. The bats stayed quiet while starter José Berríos surrendered four unanswered runs in 5 2/3 innings of work.

The rally started with a 10-pitch walk to Matt Chapman, who also hit the game-tying RBI single later on. Raimel Tapia followed that up with a single to put men on first and third, and that’s when the players in the Blue Jays' dugout took off their hats and waved them in the air, in the hopes of helping along with the momentum shift.

It worked.

Jansen took a 2-2 slider from Erich Uelmen to straightaway center field, putting the game back within reach as his teammates erupted with joy. They did so again, tenfold, after Jansen singled off Mark Leiter Jr. and Chapman bolted from second to home for the winning run.

“They were pumped up,” said Schneider.

The euphoria was understandable.

After a disheartening sweep by the Angels in which Toronto was shut out twice in three games over the weekend, Monday’s contest had the potential to turn into a season-defining moment. And though the home team put up quality at-bats against Cubs rookie Javier Assad, it took a while for the knocks to roll in.

“The hits didn’t really come when we needed them to come,” said Schneider. “But if we can stay consistent, from 1 through 9, to continue to have a consistent approach would be good. Because, obviously, this team is really, really talented.”

A word that has bounced around the Blue Jays’ clubhouse a lot these days is “confidence.” In the midst of a streaky season and a whole lot of expectations, the team kept its focus on Monday night, turning up crucial defensive plays to keep the game within reach while working toward the big offensive moment.

Jansen shined on that side of the ball, too.

With the Cubs sporting a 2-0 lead and runners on second and third in the fifth, Berríos struck out Ian Happ on a ball in the dirt for the second out. Jansen completed the out with a throw to first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who quickly fired the ball back to home plate as Nick Madrigal tried to advance from third. The exchange was seamless, the transfer was elite and Madrigal was tagged for the final out of the frame.

“That was an incredible play,” said Jansen. “That was a wild one, too. You don’t draw it up much, right? You don’t see it often. It was great on Vladdy, getting rid of it right away and getting the putout.”

That was far from the night’s only defensive highlight, which was a welcome change after a weekend that can only be described as sloppy for Blue Jays fielders. Bo Bichette was at the center of more than one game-saving moment, including an unassisted double play in the 10th inning that allowed Yimi Garcia to quickly retire the side and come back out for the 11th.

“I can’t say enough about the defense,” said Jansen. “Berríos battling, the bullpen coming in and keeping the score where it was, in those extra innings, especially. That’s the reason why we had the position to win.”

Berríos didn’t have as dominant an outing as his previous couple of starts, striking out four Cubs batters while allowing 10 hits, one walk and four earned runs. But the Blue Jays' bullpen came up big, as has become a theme in the latter part of this season, keeping Chicago off the board from the seventh inning onward.

It was the type of win to build on. The Blue Jays have a two-game lead over the Orioles for the final Wild Card spot in the American League and find themselves just one game off of the top spot in a race with the potential to come down to the wire.