Yes, it’s the middle of a wild card race for the Toronto Blue Jays, a potential thriller with many more twists and turns as we move into the final seven games of the season.
But it was a different kind of wild that resulted in what, given the timing, had to feel like one of the most demoralizing losses of the season for manager John Schneider’s club.
Showing the type of resilience that has carried them over the past week, the Jays dug out of a 5-0 hole to take a 6-5 lead through eight innings only to have the heart carved out of what would have been a huge character win.
A collapse by Canadian closer Jordan Romano in the bottom of the ninth allowed the Rays’ Josh Lowe to walk it off on a single to cap off a two-run inning for a 7-6 win.
It was a wild one indeed, an emotional roller coaster that began with Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu getting rocked early – to the tune of three homers and five runs through 4.2 innings – and what was looking like an easy Rays win.
Instead, the Jays scored four runs in the sixth inning and two more in the eighth – all directly related to mind-numbing mistakes by the Rays – to set themselves up for what would have been a massive victory with just seven games remaining.
The loss evens up the weekend series and offered some life to both the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, the two teams currently chasing the Jays for the AL’s second wildcard spot.
We say currently, because there is all sorts of wildness in the race now, with the AL West leading Houston Astros also in the mix of a race for two spots that almost certainly seems headed for the final weekend of the season.
The Jays, who slipped to 86-69, could have done themselves a huge favour if that scintillating rally stood up. But Romano, who seemed to have an issue with a finger on his throwing hand, couldn’t get the job done.
Nursing a one-run lead, Romano allowed a leadoff double to Yandy Diaz and then had manager John Schneider and trainer Jose Minstral visit the mound to check on the finger. But the Markham native remained in the game and allowed singles to Harold Ramirez and Curtis Mead to square it up at 6-6.
Romano was able to get to two outs, but with runners on the corners, Lowe was able to direct a 96-mile-per-hour fastball down the left field line for the game winner.
Good teams find ways to win games when things go awry, as this one seemed to be for the Jays and they definitely made a game out of it.
Back in the sixth, the Rays should still have had that big 5-0 lead when Jays catcher Tyler Heineman struck out, but Tampa Bay counterpart Christian Bethancourt couldn’t corral a pitch in the dirt.
Suddenly a routine out turned to rally time.
A George Springier double brought in a pair of runs and then singles from Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. brought in two more. Suddenly a 5-0 blanking was a 5-4 game.
More calamity awaited two innings hence when the Jays were once again clutch after a pinch-hit double to lead it off from Santiago Espinal was looking to go to waste after two subsequent outs.
But Cam Eden – in to pinch run for Espinal – scored from third on a wild pitch from Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks. Walks by Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio put two more on and then the bases were loaded when Matt Chapman was hit by a pitch.
More wildness, anyone?
A four-pitch walk for Whit Merrifield ended Fairbanks’ day and the Jays had the go-ahead run on what looked like an unlikely win.
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Nothing has come easy for this team all season, however. As game as they have been all season, you get the feeling there is plenty of wildness to come.
And what a race it’s going to be.