Hot and heated: Blue Jays drop hard loss in steamy Chicago

June 22nd, 2022

CHICAGO -- The Blue Jays ran a marathon inside a sauna on Tuesday in Chicago, falling short in a game that was more about outlasting the White Sox than outplaying them. 

For most of that marathon, the Blue Jays trailed, baffled by Chicago’s Dylan Cease as he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. By the time the White Sox walked it off in the bottom of the 12th, 7-6, that felt like it took place last week. 

The Blue Jays had every opportunity to steal a win, even handing a 4-2 lead to closer Jordan Romano in the bottom of the ninth. After Chicago tied things up and forced extras, the Blue Jays stayed in stride with them until the very end before blinking first, stranding their automatic runner in the top of the 12th and leaving the door wide open for the gut punch that came soon after from Josh Harrison.

“I’ve never been in an extra-inning game that you lose and it’s not tough,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s just another one. Of course, they always feel a little tougher when you had a chance to win it and you blew the save. Our closer has been one of the best in baseball and he just didn’t have it today. That happens.”

At first pitch, Chicago was sizzling at 38 degrees Celsius and feeling like 42. For our American friends, that’s 100 degrees feeling like 107. Losing any game in the Major Leagues is tough. Losing your hottest game of the season in 12 innings that trudge across four hours and 23 minutes? It’s a downright unenjoyable day at the ballpark.

Tempers were simmering all evening from both sides, too. Pitching coach Pete Walker was ejected in extra innings following a heated exchange with the home plate umpire Doug Eddings, and the Blue Jays’ dugout was back and forth all night regarding balls and strikes. Even Santiago Espinal, who’s never been seen in public without a smile, expressed his frustrations after several called strikes off the edge of the plate.

In the end, though, this goes in the books as one loss. The missed opportunities sting, but back before this turned into a frustrating loss, Kevin Gausman was giving the Blue Jays what they’ve needed from their starting rotation after a frustrating stretch.

His solution for the heat was simple, at least.

“I didn’t wear tights today,” Gausman said. “That was about it. That was the only thing I changed. One less layer. I just tried to drink water and Pedialyte. It’s good when you know a day out that it’s going to be this hot.”

To start June, Gausman was chased early by the Twins on a day where he was nearly forced to abandon his brilliant splitter altogether. Last time out, against the last-place Orioles, he allowed seven runs (five earned) over 2 1/3 innings. For one of baseball’s best starters up to that point, something wasn’t adding up.

Tuesday, he gave the Blue Jays six innings of two-run ball, striking out seven and grinding through 107 pitches. It didn’t end how he deserved it to, but as Montoyo says at least five times a week, he gave the team a chance to win. It’s his No. 1 criteria for a starter.

“I thought we showed a lot of heart coming back,” Gausman said. “Especially after how those first six innings went, we flipped the script. The guys showed a lot of resiliency. It’s unfortunate. Sometimes, with the way extra innings are now, sometimes it’s like that. It makes it a little bit harder.”

Gausman had a little something extra, too. Across the board, his velocity was up nearly 2.0 mph, his fastball even touching 98 mph at one point. That trademark splitter was working, too, even if Gausman didn’t lean on it as heavily as he has in the past. It was a return to normal for Gausman, and his version of “normal” is a frontline starter.

None of this is a consolation for the Blue Jays, who also dropped a close one 8-7 to open the series. It’s left the bullpen in a bad spot ahead of Ross Stripling’s start in the Wednesday finale, but that’s becoming the norm lately as this rotation looks to provide more length like Gausman did.

Watching from home or the bleachers in Chicago, you’ll remember this game for its length, the heat and the back-and-forth battle at the end. The Blue Jays will remember a half-dozen missed opportunities, though, on a night that could have bounced the other way long before it ended.