Can J.P. Arencibia's Clutch Home Run Be a Catalyst for the Toronto Blue Jays?
Last night, after watching the Toronto Maple Leafs tumble through a myriad of turnovers to the Boston Bruins, I quickly switched over to watch the conclusion of the Toronto Blue Jays game versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
At this point it was 7-5 in the top of the eighth inning. I shrugged and hopelessly got ready to watch the culmination of another loss for Gibbons' Jays.
Yet there was life in the bottom of the eighth inning. Yunel Escobar missed an easy catch on J.P. Arencibia to start off the inning (I was surprised it was not deemed an error), followed by a DeRosa strikeout and Brett Lawrie walk.
Another error by Escobar did not allow for a routine double play to occur and end the inning. In fact, no outs were garnered on the play. Bautista hit a sacrifice fly, scoring J.P. Arencibia on a hard-hit ball to right. 7-6.
You could feel the energy of the Blue Jays through the TV. You could tell that they were feeling good and close to breaking through.
Unfortunately, Encarnacion ground out to third on a great play by Evan Longoria, ending the threat in the eighth.
After Darren Oliver made quick work of the Rays in the bottom of the eighth, the Jays were back up and started with a leadoff walk to Lind, who was subsequently replaced by the speedster Bonifacio. Boni stole second and the throw got away from Escobar, allowing E.B. to move to third with no outs.
Then came the same old Blue Jays.
Rasmus struck out and Izturis ground out to first, leaving Bonifacio stranded at third with two outs. After Rodney had J.P down to a 2-2 count, I leaned over and commented wryly to my girlfriend, "And he strikes out on this pitch," to which she replied, "Don't say that, have some faith!" I felt the distaste and newfound pessimism of all Blue Jays fans during the 2013 season; nothing ever went our way.
Boom. Home run. Boom. Season changed.
To this day, I have never seen my girlfriend so excited at a baseball play. She shrieked, and for the first time all season, something right happened.
Can this one swing completely change the tide of the season? By itself, I don't think so. But at that time, I had no idea the Blue Jays had come back from a 7-0 deficit in that game. To come back from such a deficit in the fourth inning against a divisional rival is definitely a season-changer, especially with the way it culminated.
How many games will the Jays win in this weekend series against Boston?
Couple that with the first real blowout win the night before (10-2 victory over the Mariners) and the Blue Jays had a tidy little two-game win streak for only the second time this season. In fact, after another great comeback win tonight, the Blue Jays are on their first three-game win streak of the season and looking good.
On Monday, you could see the camaraderie build by the minute in the last two innings of the game, and I'm sure that began earlier on in the game as they chipped away at the Rays' lead. It was a total team effort, and they picked up their starter Buehrle, who has been struggling.
This is the exact type of game that changes the tune in the locker room, loosens the players up and lets them enjoy the game once again.
Moreover, the Blue Jays got another late-inning win after picking up J.A. Happ, who got hit in the head on a comebacker and was taken to the hospital for tests.
The Blue Jays came together to pull out a late-inning comeback. Do you think that that would have been possible if they didn't win the night before? I didn't think so either.
This win was essential, as the Rays come back with arguably the two best lefties in the game in Matt Moore and David Price for the last two games of the series.
This is a very important stretch for the Blue Jays. They have two more games against the Rays, followed by a weekend series in Boston. If the Jays can use this heroic home run by Arencibia as a catalyst for a season turnaround, they can be right in the thick of the AL East race come the end of the week. If they sweep the Red Sox, they will potentially only be a handful of games out of first.
Let's hope that Arencibia's home run brings the team together and allows for a multitude of female shrieks.
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