Blown call ends the plucky Toronto Blue Jays comeback bid last night in Boston, breaking our aching heart just a little more
For all the Adam Lind moonshots, Ricky Romero complete-game gems and Jose Bautista heroics, games like Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park remind us why it can be oh-so-awfully-heartbreaking to be a Jays fan these days. Especially when that loss comes at the hands of a bad call from the home plate umpire.
Despite being blanked by Red Sox ace Jon Lester and a trio of Sox relievers through eight innings, a Bautista bomb off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth brought the visitors within one run, setting up this scene: with two outs and Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia on base, Blue Jays utility infielder John McDonald (not exactly the guy most Jays fans want to see at the plate with the game on the line) fought off a two-strike deficit to lift a looping single into left field, sending Encarnacion charging to home plate to secure the tying run. The throw home from Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald arrived just as Encarnacion was preparing for a home plate collision with Jason Varitek, who managed to block the plate with his leg. But Encarnacion proceeded to juke his way around the veteran catcher, swinging his right leg around Varitek’s and across the plate for what appeared to be the tying run. Home plate umpire Brian Knight appeared to think so too, signalling Encarnacion as safe—before changing his call mid-gesture to a decisive “out”—and that was the ball game.
Afterwards, Rogers Sportsnet analyst (and former catcher, we should mention) Gregg Zaun applauded Varitek’s flawless technique in blocking and tagging out Encarnacion, despite clear evidence that the Jays infielder was safe.
On the plus side, the heartbreaker showed the kind of resilience that is starting to define this year’s club, even if it hasn’t necessarily translated to wins. As Lind explained in Chris Jones’s excellent Grantland piece, these are the kinds of games that the Blue Jays need to win if they want to remain competitive in the daunting AL East and challenge for a playoff spot. After all, it was the team’s 18th one-run loss of the season—a significant stat considering the Jays currently sit 10½ games out of first place in the division.
Last night the umpire blew the call. But it was the type of game that you hope this young Blue Jays team can look back on as a gritty, hard-fought comeback—and just maybe a turning point for the 2011 season.