Sports

Battle of the Birds

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By Isaac Boloten

The Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays met in a 4­-game series this weekend, from Thursday to Sunday. The Orioles began the weekend with a commanding 4.5 game lead on the Jays, for first place in the American League Eastern Division. This was a huge series, as 4 games against a division rival can have serious eventual playoff implications. If the Jays had been swept, they would have found themselves 8 games out of first place, and in a position in which they may have had to think about selling as much as they could, and restocking their farm system. It was as must­-win as a series will get in June.

If game one was any indication, the Jays did not look up to the task. After grabbing an early lead on the strength of Josh Donaldson’s RBI triple, the Jays were in good shape. Unfortunately, a theme that had been prevalent all season reared its ugly head again, as the bullpen coughed up the league, and led to one of the most dejecting losses of the season. I can attest to this. Walking out of the stadium after such a heartbreaker was absolutely no fun. The Jays had to come back strong in the following three games.

Game two provided just as much suspense as game one. Once again getting out to an early lead, the bullpen allowed the Orioles to tie it up in the ninth, bringing it into extra innings. Extras did not last very long, as the first batter in the bottom of the 10th, Edwin Encarnacion sent a Brad Brach offering into the Orioles bullpen over the right field wall, giving the Blue Jays a much needed victory and vote of confidence. Edwin broke an 0­-19 streak before that home run. It may have served as a true turning point of the series.

If there was any doubt that the Jays were awoken with their walk­off victory, game 3 put that doubt to rest. In the Saturday battle, the high­powered Blue Jays offence returned. Edwin Encarnacion carried his chicken wing from his walk­off home run on Friday night, and turned it into two more home runs on Saturday. Michael Saunders also went deep. The Jays ended up taking it 11­6, providing some much­needed stress­relief and breathing room for the overtaxed bullpen. The Jays were flying high…

And those high­flying Blue Jays flew right into the series finale on Sunday, knocking Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez out in the first inning, after just one third of an inning. They strung together hit after hit, and it seemed like the game was going to be a laugher, especially with emerging ace Aaron Sanchez on the mound. It was 7­1 Blue Jays when things started to go wrong. Sanchez’s fastball wasn’t moving as much as it was early on, and he was leaving it in the wrong place. Adam Jones homered. Then Chris Davis homered. Then Pedro Alvarez homered. Before we knew it, it was 7­6. There was a familiar, sick feeling in the stomachs of Jays fans as the rest of the game played out. The Orioles were dangerous. In the 7th, they got some much­needed insurance, as East York, Ontario native Russell Martin jolted a three­run blast off of the facing of the WestJet Flight deck in centre. This proved to be all of the ten runs the Blue Jays needed, as the Orioles came storming back in the 9th, making it 10­9, when Jason Grilli struck out Jonathan Schoop, closing the door on the Orioles, and closing the book on the series.

The Blue Jays ended up taking 3 out of 4 games, and are now just 2.5 games out of first place. Those last three games, each played in front of sold out crowds at the Rogers Centre, were three of the most exciting games all year. The Jays will look to continue this streak against the Phillies this week, where they’ll play two at the Rogers Centre, and then head to the city of Brotherly Love to play two more at Citizen’s Bank Park.

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