Jays power show tops Cubs
Back-to-back homers by Stairs, Rolen win game
BLUE JAYS 3, CUBS 2
The Toronto Blue Jays had played 615 innings this season without hitting more than one homer in the same frame.
That is perhaps unsurprising, given that the Toronto home run is fast becoming an endangered species.
So it was with dutiful delight that Blue Jays fans greeted a couple of long swats in the third inning last night, back-to-back blasts by Matt Stairs and Scott Rolen that accounted for an early 3-0 lead over the Chicago Cubs.
As the ensuing innings unfolded without another Jays run, a more predictable question emerged: Could the Jays win a war of attrition against the best team in baseball?
Nearly 28,000 fans, including many who favoured the Cubs, had to wait until the very end for the answer. It was provided, once again, by B.J. Ryan, who had blown three of his previous four save opportunities.
This time Ryan retired three of the four hitters he faced to preserve a tense 3-2 Toronto victory.
The crowd gave former Jays outfielder Reed Johnson a standing ovation when he pinch-hit in the ninth. They also cheered when he grounded out.
Starter A.J. Burnett, who once again threw too many pitches and drove himself from the game in the sixth, courted trouble for most of his session, but allowed only one run and earned the win.
His successors also walked the cliff ’s edge a few times against the high-scoring visitors.
Only a bizarre bit of luck saved the Jays from potential disaster.
After Burnett left in the sixth with none out, two on and a 3-1 lead, Brian Wolfe gave up what looked at first to be an RBI single to Jim Edmonds.
But the ball hit the second-base umpire in the hand before scooting into centre field. A ball that hits an umpire cannot be played, so the runner had to return to third, leaving the bases full.
One out later, Eric Patterson’s single made the score 3-2, but Wolfe escaped further damage when Ryan Theriot bounced into a double play.
“It was a big break for us,” Wolfe said. “That definitely would have scored a run.”
Instead of scoring twice, the Cubs were held to one.
“It was good we got out of there still with the lead,” Wolfe said. “Then the rest of the bullpen came in and did what they’re supposed to do.”
Shawn Camp and Jesse Carlson worked a one-hit seventh, as did Scott Downs in the eighth.
The Jays started the weekend with a .500 record, having dropped eight of their past 11 games. The Cubs had won 14 of 17 by doing what the Jays do not — matching solid pitching with a potent offence.
But it was Toronto that produced a rare, if fleeting, fireworks display against Cubs starter Sean Gallagher in the third. After Alex Rios drilled his second double of the game, Stairs clobbered a slider into the second deck in right field.
Rolen followed with a blast over the left-field wall on the sixth consecutive fastball he saw from Gallagher.
Stairs leads the Jays with eight homers, Rolen has three.
The homers gave the Jays 45 for the season. To put that in perspective, the Cubs have 74 and the Florida Marlins, who lead the majors, have 101.
Burnett, who squared his record at 6-6, posted seven strikeouts and three walks through five innings, but he also threw 101 pitches, including 33 in the first inning alone.