CHICAGO — Chien-Ming Wang gave the Toronto Blue Jays badly-needed innings, and a chance to win Tuesday night in a debut that at minimum offered some food for thought.
And thanks to a dramatic ninth-inning home run from a down-to-his-last-strike Jose Bautista and a manufactured run in the 10th inning from Rajai Davis, the veteran right-hander’s new team rallied its way to a heartening 7-5 victory against the sloppy Chicago White Sox.
“It was great,” Bautista said of Wang’s pitching 7.1 innings. “We haven’t seen that on a consistent basis from the pitching staff, but even though he gave up some runs he was able to manage his pitch count, which is key, and that’s why he was able to stay in there for so many innings.”
Wang allowed five runs on 10 hits three walks and left trailing 5-4, but Bautista took care of that with his 15th homer, a solo blast down the line in left off Addison Reed. In the 10th, Davis singled, stole second, took third on Adam Lind’s fly ball and scored on Ramon Troncoso’s wild pitch.
An insurance run scored when Maicer Izturis charged home on Munenori Kawasaki’s double, and catcher Tyler Flowers dropped a relay that would have netted him the out at home for the White Sox’s third error of the night.
Casey Janssen then closed things out for his 13th save after winner Brett Cecil recorded five straight outs.
“That’s what we need, to start winning close games like this,” said Edwin Encarnacion, whose two-run homer in the fifth made it a one-run game. “Winning games like this can wake up the team.”
Wang, officially signed earlier in the day to a US$500,000 contract, might have picked up the win had the offence not squandered several golden chances to score, none more glaring than when it put runners on the corners to open the eighth and came up empty.
J.P. Arencibia struck out — his third K of the night with a runner on third and less than two outs — before Izturis hit into a double play, an outcome all too familiar for this team.
Wang’s trouble spot came while nursing a 2-1 lead in the fourth, when Dayan Viciedo hit an RBI single to tie things and Connor Gillaspie delivered a major blow, a three-run shot that made it 5-2.
A remarkable escape from a bases-loaded no-out jam in the fifth kept things from spinning out of control, and he settled from there to pitch into the eighth — a gift for a tired bullpen — as the Blue Jays’ attempt to stop-gap a roster hole with a once successful retread, a strategy employed so effectively by the New York Yankees this season, showed some promise.
“That inning I used more splitters,” Wang, who has struggled with shoulder problems the past few seasons, said of the fifth. “I’m very happy to be back and thank you to the Blue Jays for giving me the opportunity to play baseball in the major leagues.”
The Blue Jays turned to Wang over Chad Jenkins, who was slapped around for six runs on 10 hits over 4.2 innings for triple-A Buffalo in a 6-5 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Wang’s next start is scheduled for Sunday at Texas.
“He can still get guys out at this level,” said manager John Gibbons, “and he showed that tonight.”
WHERE THINGS STAND: The Blue Jays (28-36) won for the third time this season when trailing after eight innings, ending a two-game losing skid in the process. The White Sox (28-35) made three errors as their three-game win streak came to an end before a crowd of 20,700 at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Blue Jays went to extra innings for the fifth time in the past 13 games, improving to 3-2 in those contests. Esmil Rogers is slated to pitch against Chris Sale in Wednesday’s series finale, although there are some concerns the game may be rained out.
LIND LEANS ON LEFTIES: Lind is now 11 for 22 against left-handed pitchers this season after collecting three hits, two off Jose Quintana and another against Matt Thornton, while serving as a catalyst for the offence.
“That’s great, hopefully it can continue, and if it does I’ll continue to play,” he said of hitting .500 against southpaws. “I just tried to stay within myself, I’ve really got away from trying to hit a home run every pitch and just try to make solid contact and whatever happens goes from there.”
His double in the second after Mark DeRosa reached on an error allowed the second baseman to score on a passed ball, while Izturis cashed the first baseman in with a two-out RBI single.
Lind’s single in the fourth put runners on the corners with one out, but Arencibia and Izturis failed to cash him in, and his single in the eighth helped set up a runners on the corners nobody out opportunity that also went for naught.
CLUTCH KNOCK: Down 1-2 in the count against Reed with two outs, Bautista connected for the game-tying homer.
His approach in the situation?
“When I have two strikes I’m trying to swing at a strike and I was lucky enough that he hung me a slider,” said Bautista. “If you were to ask him I’m sure he’d say that’s not where he wanted to throw that pitch. To be honest, I was kind of glad because today off of him, I wasn’t picking up the fastball all that great. He throws across his body, I haven’t faced him in a couple of years and I think (Monday) when he pitched he was throwing 90, 91, 92 and (Tuesday) he was throwing a little harder. Coming out of his hand, across his body like that, I wasn’t picking it up all that great. It worked to my advantage that he chose that pitch and he hung it.”
POWER OUTAGE: With Lind batting in the 10th, a handful of lights in the banks behind home plate went out, dimming the field.
After a lengthy consultation, the umpires determined that there was enough light to continue play.
IN THE SYSTEM: The Blue Jays promoted catching prospect A.J. Jimenez from single-A Dunedin to double-A New Hampshire, where he was last season before undergoing ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow. … Left-handed prospect Daniel Norris came out of his start Sunday for single-A Lansing after just 1.2 innings with some forearm tightness. Word is he checked out fine and is expected back soon. … Top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez remains on the disabled list with a minor muscle issue by his right shoulder blade but is on a throwing program and reports no issues.