TORONTO – Steve Tolleson is the only Toronto Blue Jay who will want to remember Wednesday’s game.
With his team trailing the Cleveland Indians by 13 runs in the ninth inning, the Blue Jays utility infielder came off the bench to make his big league pitching debut and secure the final out.
“I wish the circumstances hadn’t even been that way to get that chance but I guess any time you have a chance to go out and try to get an out in a major-league game that’s a pretty special opportunity for anyone,” said the 30-year-old Tolleson after the Indians pounded the Blue Jays 15-4 at Rogers Centre.
“I didn’t take it for granted,” said Tolleson, who joked that he tried to stay “below the hitting speed” against the two hitters he faced. He yielded a double to Lonnie Chisenhall and got Mike Aviles to pop up.
Tolleson, who said he pitched a couple of times late in blowout games in the minors in 2011 and 2012, said manager John Gibbons came up to him before the Cleveland ninth to see if he was willing to go in to pitch if needed. He relieved Neil Wagner, recalled earlier in the day from triple-A Buffalo, who had given up six runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings.
“He was battling out there and if I could save him a few pitches to help him get ready for his next appearance then that’s what the team needed today,” Tolleson said.
Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes flipped the ball into the stands after the Aviles pop up but Tolleson said it was retrieved for him to keep as a souvenir.
David Murphy was 5 for 6 with five runs batted in and Chisenhall was 5 for 6 with an RBI as Cleveland (19-21) had 22 hits off for five different Toronto pitchers before 14,068 fans.
The Indians led 4-2 after six innings before pounding the Toronto bullpen to turn it into a laugher.
“We were in that game going into the seventh inning,” Gibbons said. “Then, of course, it exploded on us. Get that one out of our system and come back tomorrow.”
Toronto (20-21) closes out a nine-game home stand against the Indians on Thursday night.
Dustin McGowan’s struggles at home continued. The Toronto right-handed starter was touched for four runs in four-plus innings, including a two-run home run by Carlos Santana.
McGowan (2-2), making his eighth start of the season, gave up a run in each of the second and fourth innings before being chased by three straight hits including Santana’s two-run blast in the fifth.
McGowan is now 0-2 with 16 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings and 9.10 earned-run-average over four starts at the Rogers Centre this season.
On the road, he’s 2-0 with six earned runs in 23 1/3 innings and a sparkling 2.31 ERA in four starts.
“It was just one of those nights where they were waffling the ball,” McGowan said. “Sometimes you have to tip your hat to them.
“All my pitches were fine tonight. I just got hit hard.”
Former Blue Jay Yan Gomes had a three-run homer in the ninth off Wagner to cap the onslaught.
Meanwhile, Cleveland starter Corey Kluber (4-3) had a solid outing.
The right-hander retired the first 13 Blue Jays he faced and finished the night yielding two runs, four hits and a walk while striking out nine over seven innings.
Adam Lind had two of the Blue Jays eight hits while Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Juan Francisco and Josh Thole each drove in a run.
After Thursday’s game, the Blue Jays go out on the road for three weekend games in Texas before heading to Fenway Park for a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox beginning on Tuesday.