Jays outlast Tigers in longest game in club history
Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Steve Tolleson (18) tags out Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos (9) during the fifth inning in a game at Rogers Centre. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)
Seated behind home plate at the Rogers Centre on Sunday was an elderly couple with matching white Blue Jays shirts with script on the back that read: “Together Since 1951.”
By game’s end, it must have seemed to them as if they had met just before the first pitch, after witnessing the longest game in Blue Jays history, either by innings or time.
Just six hours and 37 minutes (and 19 innings) after Mark Buehrle threw that first pitch, Jose Bautista singled home Munenori Kawasaki from third base to give the Jays a 6-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers in a game they once trailed 5-0.
Bautista may have been the man of the moment, but the real heroes of this one were the bullpens of both teams. Buehrle lasted just 3.1 innings but the seven-man Toronto relief corps racked up 15.2 scoreless innings, highlighted by Chad Jenkins’ six-inning tour de force that earned him the win.
“Buehrle had a tough one today,” said Jenkins. (Todd Redmond) came in and did what he always does. (Aaron) Sanchez came in and gave us three, which was huge. And once we tied the game, I’m sitting there thinking: ‘Oh, oh, I’m the last one. I know I am.’ Nobody else down there is going long so, I guess I’m it. Let’s see what we can do.”
In the entire month of July, Jenkins pitched four innings. On Sunday, he matched that and then some.
“I’m exhausted,” he said. “I had two strikes on the shortstop (Andrew Romine) in the 19th. I’m thinking I’ve got about two pitches left in me. Both fastballs and I hope he misses one of them. Sure enough, he swung right through it.”
R.A. Dickey, scheduled to start Wednesday’s game in Seattle was warming up in the bullpen, just in case there was going to be a 20th inning.
“I’m glad I wasn’t needed,” he said.
The undermanned Tigers bullpen, left a man short because of an oblique injury suffered by reliever Joakim Soria, tossed nine scoreless innings before Rick Porcello, a starter, served up the game-winning hit with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the 19th.
“I was just trying to see a pitch in the zone and drive it to the outfield,” said Bautista, who came to the plate in the 19th 0-for-7 in the game with two intentional walks. “I got lucky I connected well enough. Obviously, it was a great win for us today.”
Four times, from the bottom of the ninth to the bottom of the 19th, the Blue Jays had the bases loaded and couldn’t push across the decisive run. Between the two teams, they left 43 men on base in the game, 19 by the Tigers, 24 by the Jays. Indeed, from the ninth inning through the 19th, Toronto left 19 men on.
Tigers starter David Price doesn’t normally need any gifts from the Jays. He came into this game with a 7-0 record in eight starts at the Rogers Centre, all of them as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. So, when Toronto handed him three unearned runs in the top of the first, it was almost overkill.
When Jose Reyes booted a routine ground ball off the bat of Victor Martinez, that should have been the third out in the top of the first. But it opened up the door to a three-run inning that put Buehrle and the Jays in a deep hole, before Price had even delivered a pitch.
The Tigers scored again in the third, J.D. Martinez delivering his third RBI of the game with a double to left. And when Ian Kinsler doubled to drive in Detroit’s fifth run in the top of the fourth, that was it for Buehrle, who has now failed to get through five innings in three of his past four starts.
It remained 5-0 with Price on cruise control until the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, Danny Valencia drilled a ball right back at Price. It bounced off his body and caromed into right field for a double. After being checked out by the training staff, Price delivered his next pitch and Jose Navarro swatted the high fastball over the wall in left to cut the margin to three runs.
Already over 100 pitches, Price came back out for the seventh and walked Steve Tolleson, then gave up a single to Colby Rasmus. Kawasaki hit a ground ball to second base, getting the force at second, but beat out the back end of the play. Reyes and Melky Cabrera each followed with RBI singles against reliever Phil Coke to pull the Jays to within one.
Righty reliever Al Alburquerque came on to face Bautista. With the count full, both runners were on the move when Bautista struck out and Tigers catcher Alex Avila gunned down Reyes at third for the double play to end the inning.
Toronto’s game-tying rally in the ninth began with an Anthony Gose pinch-hit single. When Rasmus struck out, Gose was on the move. He was initially called out on his steal attempt but, under review, the call was overturned, putting him at second for Reyes who drilled a single to dead centre, scoring Gose without a play at home for the tying run. The Tigers then elected to walk Bautista intentionally to load the bases. Juan Francisco then ran the count full against Chamberlain but struck out to send the game to extra innings where the bullpens and the two defences prevailed
The previous longest Jays game by time was 5:57 on April 19, 2001 against the Yankees. Twice previously the Jays have played 18 innings, including last year at home against the Texas Rangers.
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