September 30, 2023, 6:28 PM
TORONTO – This Toronto Blue Jays team doesn’t really do straight-forward or take the path of least resistance, so of course they’d have to make a win-to-get-in afternoon complicated.
A 7-5 loss in 10 innings to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon left their magic number at one and their plans to celebrate the clinching of a wild-card berth dependent on the Texas Rangers beating the Seattle Mariners later in the day.
Locked 4-4 after Harold Ramirez’s two-run homer in the fifth inning, Taylor Walls eventually broke through in the 10th against Jordan Hicks, who also pitched the ninth after Jordan Romano handled the eighth, with a two-run single before Junior Caminero’s roller brought in another run.
While Bo Bichette ripped an RBI double off Chris Devenski in the bottom half, the Blue Jays could get no closer, putting them at risk of having to use ace Kevin Gausman in Sunday’s season-finale to secure their spot in the post-season.
Much like their entire season, Saturday, even with the Rays very much in line-things-up-for-the-wild-card-round mode, was another roller-coaster ride before a Rogers Centre crowd of 42,097.
Hyun Jin Ryu, making what could be his final appearance for the Blue Jays, could have brought his four seasons in Toronto full circle by winning a clinching game in the last year of his $80-million, four-year contract, just as he did in 2020, during his first year.
The veteran lefty, who at 36 made a remarkably fast return from Tommy John surgery last summer, gave up an RBI single to Isaac Paredes in the first, an RBI double to Josh Lowe in the third and was fortunate to not take more damage in his three frames, giving up seven hits and lots of loud contact. It wasn’t an outing reflective of the 52 essential innings he provided in place of Manoah this year, or his total contribution across the four years.
“You look at his signing and it was one of the first of many that really turned the tide here a little bit,” said manager John Schneider. “He was one of the best pitchers in a shortened season in 2020. But just having a pitcher of his calibre here kind of set the tone for what we were doing after that, too. … His impact has been huge. A veteran guy that has been around and he’s helped other pitchers, he’s helped our catchers and just a really, really steady presence.”
Daulton Varsho began undoing a 2-0 deficit in the third with a solo shot and then put the Blue Jays ahead in the fourth with a two-run single, right after a Taylor Wells error on Whit Merrifield loaded the bases. George Springer’s RBI single later in the inning made it 4-2.
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But Trevor Richards, the first of six Blue Jays relievers, gave up a two-run homer to new Blue Jays nemesis Harold Ramirez in the fifth and the score remained 4-4 until the decisive 10th.
An intriguing subplot developed in the eighth when Schneider brought in Romano, who blew a save last weekend at Tropicana Field and gave up the winning homer in the ninth against the Yankees in his last two outings, to pitch the eighth, saving Hicks for the ninth.
Hicks was clean in the ninth but took damage in the 10th after Kiermaier made a brilliant catch to open the top half, chasing down a smash by Jonathan Aranda by the wall and throwing to third to keep ghost-runner Paredes at second. After an intentional walk to Lowe, pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia also walked, Yandy Diaz, coming off the bench, struck out and Walls dropped in a two-run single. Junior Caminero then beat out an infield roller to bring home a third run.
Bichette’s double was the last gasp and now the Blue Jays go back to waiting.
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