It had all the makings for a Canada Day ball party to kick off the summer in style, and maybe even boost a Blue Jays team seemingly incapable of generating positive momentum.
There were home runs, three of them. and there was a rally at the end of the inning and the potential for a dramatic victory and comeback for the home team on a day of national celebration.
Instead, it ended with crossed signals, a potential tying run thrown at the plate to end it and a thrilling ninth-inning rally drowned in another frustrating loss.
A 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Center on Saturday afternoon will go down as one of the most infuriating losses in a season that has had too many.
Worse, it slid the Blue Jays to an unacceptable 0-6 mark against the last-place team in their division and 7-19 against AL East opponents overall.
So much happened at the end of this riveting game that it ignited the festive, sellout crowd of 41,813, an impressive rally generated by the Blue Jays’ biggest stars. only to see the best player on the team, Bo Bichette, go down easily on the final play of the game.
What made it worse was the confusion on the bases after Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s single to right-center fielded by Alex Verdugo, armed with a fireball.
George Springer easily scored on the play from third, but Bichette appeared to run through a stop sign by third base coach Luis Rivera, essentially leaving him dead at the plate.
Later, Bichette maintained that he did not see a clear signal, although he expected it.
“I saw it. I knew the situation,” said Bichette, whose third-inning homer and ninth-inning double made him a central player in Toronto’s offense. “If we’re going to score a run, I need to be aggressive. But also I knew the ball was headed for their best pitcher, so I figured they would stop me, but I didn’t really see anything.
“I didn’t really see anything to tell myself anyway, I didn’t really have a clear idea.”
While replays show it was unclear how emphatic Rivera’s command was, it appears Bichette slowed down nearing third. And not long after he circled the bag, and well aware of the fate hanging over him, he faltered.
Blue Jays manager John Schneider was noncommittal with how it played out, other than that the way it ended was a blunder.
“It is a very difficult play for Luis. I don’t envy his work,” Schneider said of Rivera’s decision. “Vladdy hits him hard. Hangman has the best arm. Yes, you sure want to be aggressive. At the same time, you don’t want to get the last out at the plate.
“In a perfect world, you want the last out to go to the guy in the box who doesn’t (try) to score on a guy with a good arm. I think Luis’s hand was up, but Bo is spinning and trying to score. It really isn’t anyone’s fault.”
Whoever was to blame, if anyone, it was a brutal way to lose a game, especially for a Blue Jays team that fell to 45-39, precisely the same record they had through 84 games last season, one point. calamitous in which that team was. a free fall.
That they rallied from a 6-2 deficit on Saturday and had the tying run at the plate in each of the last three innings only added to the frustration and the rollercoaster ride for the Canada Day crowd was treated with a excellent pre-game ceremony. .
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The Blue Jays aren’t a disaster by any means, though they aren’t in a wild card spot after back-to-back losses to the Red Sox, but the inability to cash in key runs at critical moments seems to be wearing on the team.
“We’ve been putting guys up pretty consistently all year and just inconsistent to get that big hit,” Schneider said. “The fact that traffic is available in late-game at-bats is very encouraging. Having those at-bats in the middle of the game will make all the difference for us.”
However, it seems the Blue Jays have been waiting for those kinds of results for a while. Early home runs by Springer and Bichette were nice, but the rally didn’t really heat up until a two-run home run by Matt Chapman in the eighth.
That set the stage for a potentially dramatic scene from Guerrero, who hit the ball hard enough to tie it only to be thwarted by calamity on the bases, and a killer slap shot from Verdugo.
The Red Sox did enough damage early off Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi, pummeling the Japanese left-hander for seven hits and four runs as they chased after 4.1 innings, his shortest outing since May 14.
Think about the Red Sox remembering the beating they took at the hands of the Blue Jays in 2022 when they were 3-16 overall and 2-8 at Rogers Center. It’s starting to look like the Blue Jays fell to 16-28 in Canada Day games overall and 2-6 against the Red Sox.
“It sucks to lose,” said a frustrated Schneider. “Obviously it’s six in a row against them, they know it and we know it, just like we won as many of (19) as we did last year.
“I was proud of how we held up.”