TORONTO – Jose Bautista made the most of his second chance.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger grounded out weakly with the bases loaded in the 13th inning Sunday, missing the chance to play hero against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre.
But when the opportunity came up again – six innings later – Bautista came through, hitting an opposite field single over the head of a drawn in outfield in the 19th to score Munenori Kawasaki as the Blue Jays capped the longest game in team history with a come-from-behind 6-5 win.
“I was just trying to see a pitch up in the zone and drive it into the outfield,” Bautista said in a quiet but jubilant Blue Jays clubhouse.
“I got lucky that I connected well enough…Obviously it was a great win for us.”
It was the second straight extra inning walkoff victory for the Blue Jays (63-56) after the Tigers (62-53) won the series opener on Friday night by scoring three runs in the ninth to win 5-4.
“We had a long day today. We battled through a lot of things,” Bautista said. “Coming out on top at the end of the day is the only thing that matters and we were able to do it.”
The Blue Jays bullpen was superb, holding the heavy-hitting Tigers scoreless over the final 15-2/3 innings after veteran starter Mark Buehrle was pulled with Toronto down 5-0 and one out in the Detroit fourth.
“They did a great job, kept us in the ball game,” said centrefielder Colby Rasmus, who made two great catches in extra innings to keep the Tigers off the board. “It was huge…Thankfully we were able to push one across there. It was a grind all day.”
At six hours and 37 minutes, and 19 innings, it was the longest game in Blue Jays history both in terms of duration and the number of innings.
Chad Jenkins (1-1) was the last of Toronto’s eight pitchers on the day, giving up seven hits over six scoreless innings in his longest outing of the year.
“Exhausted,” was how Jenkins summed up his feelings post game, adding that he would not have been able to come out and pitch another inning if the Blue Jays hadn’t scored the winner in the 19th.
“I was running low on fumes,” said Jenkins, who noted that he had a couple of starts at Triple-A Buffalo go into a sixth inning – but that was earlier in the season.
Jenkins paid tribute to the thousands among the sellout crowd of 46,126 who stayed and cheered a game that was both one inning, and 39 minutes, longer than the Blue Jays had ever played before.
“For the fans who sat through all of it, thank you, that was awesome,” Jenkins said. “It’s really exciting to look up and see it’s 7:30 and there’s still people here cheering, going crazy, going nuts. It made it so much better.”
Both teams had their chances to end it sooner.
The Blue Jays had several glorious chances. But Juan Francisco in the ninth and 15th innings, and Bautista in the 13th, failed to produce the winning run with the bases loaded.
The Blue Jays left 24 runners on base.
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the 16th but Jenkins coaxed a double play from Torii Hunter to keep it 5-5. Detroit left 19 runners on base.
“Despite the fact that both teams were bending at times, they weren’t breaking until the bottom of the 19th,” said Detroit manager Brad Ausmus, who was ejected in the middle of the third inning for arguing.
In the Jays 19th, Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello (13-7), normally a starter, intentionally walked Melky Cabrera to load the bases with none out to set the stage for Toronto’s the second straight walkoff win.
Kawasaki, who trotted in with the winning run as the ball bounced against the wall over a drawn in outfield, started the inning with a single. He moved to third when Porcello fielded Jose Reyes’ sacrifice bunt but threw the ball away.
On Saturday, the Blue Jays tied it in the ninth and then won it in the 10th.
“It doesn’t really matter (how). All that matters is the two wins,” said Bautista.
Down 5-0, the Blue Jays scored two in the sixth on Dioner Navarro’s ninth home run off Detroit starter David Price and added another pair in the seventh. Reyes made it 5-5 with two out in the ninth with an RBI single, making up for a first inning error that opened the door for three unearned Detroit runs.
Toronto now hits the road for eight games over the next 10 days beginning Monday night in Seattle.
Notes: After the game the Blue Jays optioned infielder Ryan Goins to Triple-A Buffalo and called up reliever Brad Mills.
© The Canadian Press, 2014