With pair of final at-bat rallies, Blue Jays stage consecutive unlikely comebacks

George Springer hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh to complete the Toronto Blue Jays' rally with an 11-10 win over the Baltimore Orioles in game one of the doubleheader.

BALTIMORE – No matter how hot your take is on the Toronto Blue Jays, and they were certainly sizzling at points Saturday, you have to admit, these dudes sure are a wild party.

The latest entry into their increasingly madcap 2021 dossier came when they rallied to victory during the final at-bat in both ends of a cray cray doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. George Springer’s two-run homer capped a four-run seventh to win the opener 11-10 and then, after six no-hit innings by Keegan Akin, two-run homers from Bo Bichette and Alejandro Kirk and three-run homers by Marcus Semien and Teoscar Hernandez secured an 11-2 victory in the nightcap.

Trying to make sense of how one unlikely outcome could be followed by an even unlikelier outcome can be maddening, even against the current poster club for tanking gone awry.

"Can’t predict ball" is an enduring banality because it’s true and it definitely applied to the Blue Jays arriving at Camden Yards riding an eight-game winning streak and then needing two bananas rallies to avoid dropping three straight.

They’re now tied with the New York Yankees for the second wild card spot at 79-63, one game back of the Boston Red Sox at 81-63, for the first berth.

“It's a long day, but this is a very resilient team,” said Springer. “To get down early but to keep scratching and clawing every game is huge for us. Obviously, every game counts, so this is a good day for us as a team. But it's on to tomorrow.”

Springer’s latest big moment jump-started the whole thing after Hyun Jin Ryu buried his team in a deep hole and the Orioles kept adding from there. The Blue Jays chipped away at a deficit that reached 10-5 by scoring in five of the final six innings, including the four-spot capped by the star outfielder’s first homer since a pair Aug. 11, before he strained his left knee and hit the injured list.

Nate Pearson opened a pathway to that comeback by putting up zeroes in the fifth and sixth innings. Hernandez opened up the final frame with a double off Tyler Wells, Corey Dickerson followed with a walk and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., lined a single off the right-field wall that cut Baltimore’s lead to 10-8.

Jake Lamb followed with a sacrifice fly and after Danny Jansen flew out, Springer ripped a slider over the left-field wall, pumping his arm as the ball cleared. Springer also delivered a dramatic game-winning homer in the eighth inning of a 9-8 win over the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 8, another start in which Ryu allowed seven runs.

Jordan Romano locked down the unlikely rally in the bottom half.

“I just try to slow everything down,” Springer said of his approach in crucial at-bats. “I understand who's on first, what's at stake. I'm trying to hit something hard, but I need to stay within myself, I can't try to do too much right there. So I try to breathe and really, really slow the game down.”

As for his knee, Springer said, “I'm feeling good. This is a good start, so I'll take it.”

The drama was condensed in the second game, as spot starter Thomas Hatch allowed a solo shot to Cedric Mullins and nothing else over four innings, while Akin allowed only two walks through the first six frames.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., broke up the no-hit bid with a line drive single to open the seventh and four pitches later Bichette crushed a 2-1 changeup to put the Blue Jays up. Hernandez followed with a single to end Akin’s night, Kirk greeted Tanner Scott with his eighth homer, Gurriel and Grichuk singled before Breyvic Valera’s sacrifice fly made it 5-1, Springer singled, Semien went deep, Guerrero singled and after Manny Barreda took over, Bichette singled and Hernandez went deep.

At that point the Blue Jays were 11-for-11 with a sacrifice fly in 12 plate appearances in the inning – video game stuff.

“The big swing was Vladdy,” said Springer, who felt that base hit put everyone else at ease. “He got it going and then obviously Bo and it just spiralled down to each guy from there.”

Added Hatch: “I've never seen that. Gosh, I don't think I've ever been on a team or part of an 11-run inning. And 11-for-11? Pretty unlikely but with this team, something like that is pretty likely, especially the way they're swinging the bat. It's fun to watch.”

Barreda issued two more walks before the inning ending with the Blue Jays up 11-1.

“Even those games when we give up a lot of runs early our team just never gives up,” Ryu said through interpreter J.S. Park after the opener. “That's great to see from the players that we're trying to compete every game. We still have three weeks left in the season, we have to make sure that we stay focused and compete.”

Ryu allowed seven runs in a start for the fourth time this season, three of them in the past month. At 2.1 innings, Saturday was also the shortest start of his season.

Given the stakes every time out and that Ryu also left his last outing – a six-shutout inning, three-hit gem Monday at the New York Yankees – with left forearm soreness, it’s an obvious cause for concern.

Ryu has essentially been alternating good and bad outings since that game the Red Sox on Aug. 8 and got jumped immediately Saturday, allowing two-run homers to Anthony Santander in the first and Austin Hays in the second.

Still, manager Charlie Montoyo gave him more runway than he otherwise might have after Robbie Ray only went 4.1 innings Friday night and the bullpen taxed.

Pivotally, that played out in the third inning, when Pedro Severino chopped a ball through the infield to load the bases with one out. Montoyo came out for a mound visit and had Ross Stripling, initially slated to start the nightcap but held back in case of emergency, ready.

But rather than making a move, Montoyo stuck with Ryu who got strike one on Ryan McKenna before leaving a cutter in the middle ripped to left for a two-run double that put the Orioles up 7-3.

“He asked me if I could compete and stay in and I told him, of course I can, but the result didn't come out as well as we hoped,” said Ryu, who added that there’s “nothing wrong with my arm right now.”

Second-guessing the manager’s call then and there was low-hanging fruit, especially since Ryu hadn’t been great beforehand. But if he executes the cutter down in the zone, he likely gets an inning-ending double play, allowing him to pitch deeper in the game.

After the McKenna double, Stripling took over and got some help to escape the inning without further damage, as Bichette made an excellent diving stab of a Kelvin Gutierrez grounder and bounced a throw to the plate picked adeptly by Jansen before the catcher applied a strong tag on Severino for an out.

Jansen followed that with a two-run homer in the top of the fourth that cut Baltimore’s lead to 7-5. But Stripling, in his first outing back from the injured list, gave that back in more in the bottom half, allowing back-to-back homers to Hays and Ryan Mountcastle to open the inning and a Severino RBI single that made it 10-7.

Gurriel hit a two-run homer in the second that tied the game 2-2, Guerrero ripped No. 43 to bring the Jays within 5-3 in the third and Lamb hit a two-run single in the fifth that made it a 7-5 game.

That set the stage for Springer’s latest dramatic turn, followed by another rally in the nightcap.

“I'm going to quote Jack Buck, I don't believe what I just saw,” said Montoyo. “Honestly, what we did in the first game, I wasn't expecting that in the second game, too. ... But we don't quit, man. Credit to all these guys.”

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