TORONTO – The first walk-off win of the season for the Toronto Blue Jays came in their ninth consecutive victory, and a gutsy send of Kevin Pillar with the winning run by third-base coach Luis Rivera deserves part of the credit for a 3-2 triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Rivera said he didn’t hesitate in waving Pillar home even as right-fielder Wil Myers closed in on the ball thrown away by reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo, who fielded Anthony Gose’s sacrifice bunt. Pillar needed to dive around Jose Molina as the high throw from Myers came in, with a swipe tag missing him.
“I wanted to score when I saw the ball go by (first base),” said Pillar. “Luis is aggressive over there. In the worst-case scenario, (Anthony) Gose is probably standing there at third base with one out. He made a good call there.”
A bad call was made by Oviedo, who fielded Gose’s bunt up the first-base line when it looked like it might roll foul, and rather than eating the ball as the speedy outfielder wheeled up the line, he tried to force a thrown and paid for it.
“You never know what it’s going to do on turf, it bounced and took a kick but you just don’t know,” Liam Hendriks said of the quick decision a pitcher must make in such a spot. “It’s one of those ones where if you’re going to pick it up, pick it up and see what the runner is doing. As soon as you touch it it’s a chance to either hold it or make the play. It paid off for us.”
Liam Hendriks allowed two runs in six innings during his second start with the Blue Jays and he owes his defence big for keeping the pitching line respectable.
Anthony Gose and Melky Cabrera each made leaping grabs at the top of the wall to help keep things from unravelling, while several other hits were taken away, too.
That’s why Rays manager Joe Maddon said afterwards, “they beat us with their defence.
“That’s one area of the game we’ve cleaned up and we’ve got better personnel out there this year doing it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
As for his latest bit of stellar defensive play, Gose said, “I kind of expect myself to catch everything. I really pride myself on defence. That’s what my game is. So I just try to catch every ball in the air.”
I spoke to Brandon Morrow by phone yesterday and took a look at his recovery from a finger injury, and how he might end up being the Blue Jays’ big acquisition around trade deadline time.