TORONTO — For three hours, the Blue Jays and Braves held the door open for each other, begging for their opponent to walk through and win.
Danny Jansen, who was tired of standing outside in the cold, finally decided to get in.
Toronto’s catcher was the hero of Sunday afternoon’s walkout at Rogers Center, hitting a single through the left side of the field in the bottom of the ninth for a 6-5 win and straight-to-back sweep over the Braves. At the end of a flawed match, it was great to see Jansen drenched in water, waving to a boisterous crowd at stealing the win.
“If you get an ice bath, that means something incredible has happened,” Jansen said. “It’s a special day. Obviously, this was my wife’s first Mother’s Day and this was a great way to cap it off.”
It wasn’t cold inside the stadium. It was blowing, and it mattered.
Atlanta missed a handful of routine fly balls on the field, with two players often meeting at the last minute as they tried to track a football through the air. The Blue Jays made their share of mistakes as well, both defensively and on base. One was nearly fatal, however, to start the bottom of the ninth inning.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led the game’s run and launched a fly ball to the opposite court that he clearly thought was gone. Guerrero trotted out of the box and eased a wide loop around first base, but then it came as loud as the crack of his bat. It was the hit of the ball that hit the wall.
He was hung on a single, and after the win, manager John Schneider wasted no time in saying his star hitter probably should have been at second base to open the inning. It all worked out in the end, but that play alone was problematic.
“It’s great when you win and they don’t come back to bite you,” Schneider said. “We all thought he had it too, usually a guy like him would know it. There were obviously strange circumstances with the wind and the roof open today. They had a couple [of weird plays]. I think we had to be a little bit more aware of that and a little bit more aware on the rules.”
These are the conversations great teams need — or at least teams capable of achieving greatness. There are lessons even within wins, and Sunday was blatant.
It doesn’t make it any less important to sweep one of the best teams in the National League, but this wasn’t your typical post-game victory celebration.
“You always win,” Schneider said, “but you have to defend the guys a little bit starting tomorrow. There are things we need to toughen up. I thought the last two days were good and today was a weird day. Lots of guys left on base, mistakes on both sides, and we’re Rules. You have to toughen it up.”
The Blue Jays were the comeback kids this season, going on a 10-game winning streak, and they can be thanked for that. Anthony Bass, Jay Jackson, Trevor Richards and Nate Pearson combined to give Toronto five scoreless innings of relief to keep the team in the game after a tough outing from Yosei Kikuchi, who allowed three home runs and nine hits over just four innings.
Home runs were an issue for Kikuchi, as his 11 hits on the season tied for fourth in MLB. But this is a difficult adjustment for some shooters, because it is important for Kikuchi not to lose his aggression.
“You kept attacking the area, and sometimes when you attack the area, you get injured,” Kikuchi said through a translator at the club. “We’ll go back and check the data and all that, but I’m going to keep attacking the area going forward.”
Like anything else that went wrong in a Sunday game, though, hits on the field will be forgotten when we look back on the final score a few days from now.
Consider this a lucky escape. The Blue Jays would get the win, but they know more is needed with the Yankees and Orioles coming to town, and a date with the Rays awaits next. Tampa Bay, in particular, is much less forgiving when it comes to mistakes, and it won’t be impatient if Toronto hesitates at the door again.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”