Tellez sparks, then caps Blue Jays' wild rally

In 6th, slugger rips 117.4 mph HR, adds go-ahead two-run single

August 21st, 2020

When the Blue Jays allowed the Phillies to put up seven runs in the top of the first, the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader looked like another frustrating loss in the making. had other ideas, leading the Blue Jays to a 9-8 victory.

Still down by five runs heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Blue Jays went to work. First up was Tellez, who launched a home run over the right-field bleachers that might have blown right through a car door outside Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y. At 117.4 mph, it was the Blue Jays’ hardest-hit home run since Statcast started tracking in 2015, and the second-hardest-hit homer in the Majors this season behind only Giancarlo Stanton's 121.3 mph laser.

Following the postgame celebration, Tellez wasn’t short on confidence.

“We have a lineup, top to bottom, that can hit 30 homers apiece,” Tellez said. “We believe that we can break the home run record. We believe that when we go up to the box, one swing can change a game. With that mindset and that confidence, there’s not much that’s going to hold us back.”

That wasn’t even Tellez’s last at-bat of the inning, though. After Lourdes Gurriel Jr. got the Blue Jays to the doorstep with a three-run blast to left field, it was catcher Danny Jansen who tied the game up in the unlikeliest of ways. Standing on third with Tellez back at the dish, Jansen raced home on a wild pitch that went to the backstop. With Tellez waving for Jansen to slide, he came in headfirst and beat the tag of diving Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp by inches.

Tellez made sure he finished what he started on the very next pitch with a two-run single to put the Blue Jays ahead. It wasn’t a rocket like the first one, but it didn’t need to be.

Manager Charlie Montoyo has always been in Tellez’s corner and highlighted him as one of the Blue Jays’ hitters who needed to step up in the absence of Bo Bichette. It’s a major blow for a lineup to lose one of its most talented hitters, but the Blue Jays’ power potential means that any one player can step into a starring role on any given night.

“It was a tough blow, but we’re holding our own and playing well,” Tellez said. “If we can do this without him, I can’t imagine what we can do with him.”

This incredible comeback was just the ninth time in club history that the Blue Jays came back from a deficit of seven runs. Instead of talking about a team that can look great in the afternoon and fall apart that same evening, the narrative is steadily shifting to a young team with momentum that is suddenly making some serious noise in the American League playoff race.

It fits a theme we’ve seen throughout the early weeks of this season. This Blue Jays team has stumbled, and sometimes fallen down completely, but rarely carried that frustration into the next inning or next game.

“The guys were still believing the whole time, even though we were down, 7-0,” Montoyo said.

Home runs will lead the highlight reels, but Toronto’s bullpen deserves plenty of credit as well. Jacob Waguespack, Shun Yamaguchi, Anthony Kay and A.J. Cole combined to throw 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball after Trent Thornton lasted just two outs in a rocky return from the injured list, turning what looked like a mop-up job into their biggest win of the season.