TORONTO – Another extra-innings game for the Blue Jays. And this one was extra-strength pain.
After rallying from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits to send the contest into extra innings for the fourth straight game — and sixth in its last seven home outings — Toronto went into the 11th inning Tuesday tied 4-4 with the Boston Red Sox.
Then the bottom fell out.
Mike Napoli hit a mammoth three-run homer 452 feet into the upper deck and Allen Craig added a two-run shot as the Red Sox scored seven in the 11th to defeat the Jays 11-7.
Toronto is 1-3 in the last four extra-innings game and 3-3 in the run of six extra-innings games at home. But this one turned into a rout rather than a slim win although the Jays answered with three runs in their half of the 11th.
Things got so bad that Toronto manager John Gibbons, having gone through six relievers on the night, sent in infielder Steve Tolleson to pitch the final two outs of the 11th.
Tolleson struck out Will Middlebrooks and escaped a home run when Mookie Betts’ deep fly ball was caught on the warning track. It was Tolleson’s second pitching outing of the season, helping shield a battered bullpen.
“We’re not proud of that,” said Gibbons.
The manager searched for positives — his team staging comebacks twice and Jose Bautista homering to end a slump.
But the other numbers were bad. Toronto was 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position through 10 innings and finished the night 3-for-20 on that score. The Jays left 13 men on base to nine for Boston.
“We had many shots to win that thing,” Gibbons lamented.
“That’s tough. You play that long, especially playing all those extra-inning games, that wears on you, kills your pitching staff,” he added. “But we got some hits tonight, scored some runs. But when we really needed that big one, we couldn’t get it. Well maybe that’s the start of something, we’ll see.”
In losing their third straight, 10th in 13 games, and 15th out of 22 in August, the Jays also saw their record slip to 66-66. Toronto was last at .500 on May 15 when it was 21-21.
The Jays outhit Boston 15-14 in a game that took four hours 33 minutes before 27,321 at the Rogers Centre. Junichi Tazawa (3-3), the seventh pitcher for the Red Sox, got the win — one day after Boston snapped an eight-game slide Monday night with a 4-3 decision in 10 innings to open the series.
Betts opened the Boston half of the 11th Tuesday with a single off Casey Janssen (3-2). Betts was called out at second when Christian Vasquez bunted the ball to Janssen but the call was overturned after a 76-second review. Janssen then mishandled Brock Holt’s sacrifice bunt to load the bases, setting the stage for Dustin Pedroia’s two-run single.
Sergio Santos, the Jays’ seventh pitcher on the night, took over for Janssen and, one out later, gave up the 17th fifth-deck homer in the history of the Rogers Centre. Napoli’s blast to left field was his 16th homer of the season.
“Standing at home plate, it’s hard to imagine hitting a ball that far, but he did,” said Craig.
“That was pretty impressive. That was really impressive. I haven’t seen many hit that far,” said Pedroia.
After Daniel Nava doubled, Craig hit his eighth homer of the season to right field.
Toronto threw in the towel, sending Tolleson to the mound.
“I tried to have a little bit more fun with it this time,” said Tolleson, who also pitched the final out May 14 in a 15-4 loss to Cleveland. “The last time I was kind of a deer in the headlights, not really knowing know what to do.
“This time I just tried to embrace it and enjoy it for what I could and just go out there and try to help move the game along a little bit. It was fun.”
Tolleson, who has no formal pitching experience, is the third position player in Jays history to pitch multiple outings in a season (joining Bob Bailor in 1980 and Jeff Mathis in 2012).
“I throw a good batting practice in the off-season with some of my buddies that play,” he said. “Never pitched in high school. A few situations like this in blowout games in the minor leagues and two up here this year.”
Showing his full arsenal, Tolleson — announced as the pitcher — singled in the bottom half of the 11th. Dioner Navarro’s double and Danny Valencia’s single with two out cut the lead to 11-7.
Pedroia, with his second two-run home run in as many nights after an 18-game drought, also homered for Boston in the first inning as the Red Sox took an early 3-0 lead.
His run-producing single in the 11th was one in a series of blows to the Jays’ jugular.
“Pedroia, that’s why the kid’s worth his weight in gold,” said Gibbons. “He performs when it counts.”
Toronto had a chance to end it in the bottom of the ninth. Adam Lind doubled off the centre field fence with two out, giving way to pinch runner Tolleson. Boston intentionally walked Edwin Encarnacion. But pinch hitter Navarro struck out.
Bautista ended his 0-for-17 slump with a solo home run — his 25th homer of the season — to left centre to open the Toronto half of the seventh and tie the score at 4-4. The homer was just the Jays’ 11th of the month.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who had won all three previous starts against Boston this season, went up against Boston’s Rubby (pronounced Ruby) De La Rosa, who lost his two previous starts against the Jays this season.
The two starters were operating in vastly different neighbourhoods with De La Rosa’s fastball reaching 97 m.p.h. while Dickey throwing mostly in the 70s. That was good news for Red Sox DH Napoli, who was hit on the head with a 77 m.p.h. knuckleball that sent his helmet flying.
It was a rocky start for Dickey who saw Pedroia deposit his eighth delivery of the night into the second deck in left field for a two-run homer. Dickey struck out leadoff hitter Holt but catcher Josh Thole could not handle the ball and Holt made it to first base on the passed ball.
Pedroia’s seventh homer of the season marked the seventh straight game the opposition has scored first against the Jays.
Dickey threw 28 pitches in the first.
Toronto left men on first and third in the first inning, a trend that continued all too often.
Munenori Kawasaki narrowed the deficit to 3-2 with a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning as De La Rosa struggled with his control, issuing back-to-back walks with one out.
Toronto tied it in the fifth with Melky Cabrera scoring on Encarnacion’s fielder’s choice with two out, signalling the end of De La Rosa. The inning was kept alive by a fielding miscue but Toronto managed to once again leave runners on the corners.
De La Rosa went 4 2/3 innings, living dangerously most of the way. He gave up three runs on seven hits with a pair of walks, throwing 99 pitches including 61 strikes.
Dickey went six innings, settling down after a bumpy beginning. He conceded three runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He threw 107 pitches, 67 for strikes
The Jays started Kevin Pillar in centre field in place of Colby Rasmus, said to be under the weather. Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, hit by pitches on the elbow and foot on the weekend, was given the night off for the second day in a row.
It’s the first time Toronto has been involved in four straight extra-innings games since 1991 and first time in club history it has happened at home.