From routine fly to ... inside-the-park slam!?

July 23rd, 2022

BOSTON -- Before the Blue Jays scored 28 runs Friday at Fenway Park -- setting a record for their organization and a new low for the Red Sox --  hit a routine fly ball that turned into one of the moments of the season.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the third, nothing about Tapia’s contact looked encouraging. You’d be excused if you looked away or got out of your seat a moment early. But suddenly, there was center fielder Jarren Duran, arms outstretched as the ball fell 30 feet behind him on the warning track. That’s when Tapia heard his first-base coach. 

“[Mark] Budzinski told me, ‘You’ve got to go,’” Tapia said. 

Before Tapia reached second, his helmet was bouncing on the dirt behind him. By the time he rounded third, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Danny Jansen and Santiago Espinal were crowded around home plate, ready to mob their teammate who had just -- somehow -- hit an inside-the-park grand slam to burst the game wide open, 10-0, en route to a 28-5 win. 

Tapia’s crash into home was part slide, part belly flop. By the time he came to a full stop, he stretched his arms and legs as far as they’d reach into a Superman pose.

It was the Blue Jays’ first inside-the-park homer since Ezequiel Carrera on May 6, 2017. It was also the first inside-the-park grand slam since the Nationals’ Michael A. Taylor pulled it off on Sept. 8, 2017, and just the second in Blue Jays history, stretching all the way back to June 2, 1989, when Junior Felix did it right here in Boston.

“Pete [Walker, pitching coach] and I were joking about it in the dugout,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after the game. “You look at that and you just think, ‘OK, this is different. This is cool.’ You don’t really see that every day. It was just one of those nights where you saw something special.”

Special is an understatement, but it’s difficult to summarize Friday with a word. The Blue Jays’ new record for runs came with a franchise-best 29 hits, including a whopping 11 runs in the fifth inning as the Blue Jays opened up a 25-3 lead midway through. For much of the game, it looked like they’d take a run at the all-time AL/NL record of 30, set by the Rangers in 2007.

Jansen and Gurriel, who were both involved in the play, were also two of the night’s stars. Gurriel tied the Blue Jays’ record with six hits in a single game, while Jansen homered twice, both clearing the Green Monster.

“I just put my head down and started running. I thought he caught it,” Jansen said of the slam. “I looked back once and saw his hands were up, so I just started running. Eventually, I turn around, and he’s rounding third base.”

Tapia’s inside-the-parker was when this win shifted from a good start to something potentially bigger. On a young club that celebrates as well as any other, the dugout was vibrating when Tapia got back to his teammates.

“It was very, very emotional. That’s the way we are. We celebrate everything here,” Tapia said through an interpreter. “We were very happy about it. It was just great, that celebration in the dugout.”

Tapia finished the game 3-for-7 with six RBIs, not a bad day at the office as he filled in for George Springer, who’s getting his right elbow back to 100 percent. The day raised Tapia’s average to .279 and OPS to .709 as he finds more ways to contribute to the Blue Jays, but Friday’s performance will be as unique as it gets.