Pillar's walk-off gives Blue Jays a W in extras

Veteran's 440-foot shot gives club eighth walk-off of season; Tellez hits 2 more doubles; Estrada twirls quality start

September 8th, 2018

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' youth movement is in full effect, but on a night when they needed someone to step up and put an end to a marathon of a game, it was the longest tenured player on the roster who stepped to the plate.

Center fielder walked into the spotlight on Friday night by slugging a solo homer in the bottom of the 11th inning to secure a 3-2 victory over Cleveland at Rogers Centre. Pillar's 12th dinger of the year was the second walk-off homer of his career and gave the Blue Jays their eighth walk-off victory of the season.

It almost seems hard to believe, but nobody on Toronto's roster has appeared in more games for the Blue Jays than Pillar. The 29-year-old has spent parts of six seasons with the club, and when left-hander was dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, he took over as the player with the most seniority. So it seemed rather ironic, in a week that has been all about the rookies, that Pillar would reclaim some of the glory with his shot to left off sidearmer .

"It's definite energy and I think it's a reminder, too," Pillar said in reference to the September callups. "I was in their shoes, too. I was a young kid, trying to prove myself. I think it's just kind of a friendly reminder that they're here to take your job and you have to go out and perform every single day, even when it feels like we're not playing for anything. You have to remember it's our job to go out and perform, continue to work and prove yourself every day."

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Toronto's bullpen made the victory possible, as seven relievers combined to toss five scoreless innings. Right-hander Danny Barnes picked up the victory after he escaped a bases-loaded situation in the top of the 11th by getting AL MVP candidate to ground out.

Right-hander came away with a no-decision after allowing two runs over six quality innings. The crafty right-hander scattered five hits and two walks while striking out five and throwing 64 of his 103 pitches for strikes.

The 35-year-old had been plagued in recent starts by a lingering back issue, but there were no signs of it vs. Cleveland. He appeared to have a little bit more mobility and athleticism on the mound compared to other recent outings, and while it's doubtful that Estrada is completely healthy, that at least puts him in a position to finish the year strong.

"It's getting there, slowly but surely," Estrada said. "I just felt like I was able to locate a little bit better. I've been having trouble with that down and away. One of those pitches hurt me today. I was trying to go down and away, and somehow through it down and in and Gomes hit it out. But overall, it was a good game."

Another sign that Estrada is feeling a bit more comfortable on the mound is that his velocity is back up to what it has been for most of the year, after a bit of a dip. For the second consecutive outing, Estrada averaged 87.9 mph on his fastball, which is close to the 88.6 mph he has been averaging in 2018. For context, that's still 1.2 mph below where he was last season.

Estrada opened the game with four scoreless innings before Ramirez came through with an RBI single to center to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead. In the top of the sixth, former Blue Jay connected on an 88-mph fastball and golfed it over the wall in left field for his 13th home run of the season. That had Estrada in line for the loss, until tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double.

With the two-bagger, Tellez became the first American League rookie since Joe DiMaggio in 1936 to have six doubles over a three-game stretch at any point of the season.

"It has been incredible, it has been historic," Pillar said. "He seems to be very comfortable in the box. It's one thing to go out there and drive the ball all over the field, but the way he is going about his at-bats, he's on pitches, he's taking good pitches, he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do at the plate. He's using the whole field and it has been fun to watch."


Blue Jays outfielder singled in the bottom of the eighth to extend his on-base streak to 16 games since joining Toronto. That is tied for the third-longest streak to begin a Blue Jays career. Dave Martinez ranks first with a 24-game streak in 2000 and Roy Howell is second with an 18-game streak in 1977.


"It's your job. There are people that pay money to come watch you play. There are people that plan their whole day around watching a Blue Jays game. At the end of the day, we're all replaceable in this room. September is always a friendly reminder." -- Pillar, when asked what motivates him late in the year while playing for a team that is not going to the postseason


Right-hander (1-2, 5.51 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against Cleveland on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre with first pitch scheduled for 4:07 p.m. ET. This will mark the fourth start of Reid-Foley's big league career, and his last outing was his best one yet. The 23-year-old limited the Marlins to one run over seven strong innings of work. Cleveland is set to counter with right-hander (4-5, 5.04).