Encarnacion strikes out with bases loaded to end rally threat in 7th, on night first-place Boston falls
By Alykhan Ravjiani
TORONTO -- After falling behind early in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Rays, the Blue Jays looked as though they had everything on their side during a furious seventh-inning rally.
Battling for supremacy in the American League East and Wild Card standings, Toronto had a raucous crowd of nearly 40,000 on its feet and its hottest hitter at the plate with the game on the line, but couldn't come through, spoiling an opportunity to gain ground in the standings.
Trailing, 4-2, at the time, the Blue Jays mounted a two-out rally against Rays reliever Danny Farquhar. Entering the game with a runner on first in place of left-hander Dana Eveland, Farquhar allowed a single to Devon Travis and walked Jose Bautista to load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion, who came into the game sitting on 39 home runs and nine career grand slams.
Farquhar, a former Toronto farmhand, got ahead of Encarnacion, 0-2, before bouncing a pair of changeups well out in front of home plate. After a deep breath and a visit from pitching coach Jim Hickey, Farquhar got the slugger to swing through a 94-mph fastball, ending the Blue Jays' final major rally of the night.
"I got ahead of him with a heater, and then I wanted to throw a curveball, but [Hickey] said to go heater," Farquhar said. "Then I went with a changeup. Then another changeup. And then another changeup. And then I got myself back into a hitter's count, 2-2, and I elevated the fastball. And luckily he swung."
The at-bat was a microcosm of another tough night for Toronto. Although the Blue Jays finished just 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, the team as a whole left seven men on base.
"You go out there, you play your butt off, and you hope to win," said catcher Russell Martin, who produced Toronto's only runs with a two-run shot in the sixth. "Any time you don't win, you're going to be frustrated as a competitor. Unfortunately we didn't get the win. Another big knock here or there we would have maybe had another outcome."
With the Red Sox losing to the Orioles on Tuesday, the loss keeps the Blue Jays two games behind Boston in the AL East, but also puts them in dangerous waters, with Baltimore now tied with Toronto for the top Wild Card spot in the AL.
The loss also pushes the Blue Jays to 3-8 in September, with a West Coast trip looming after Wednesday's series finale, and then a stretch against only AL East opponents to close out the season.
"We're at the point in September where we need to be getting wins, so it's frustrating," said Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, who pitched six innings and allowed three runs in the loss. "Wash it and get to the next one, but at the end of the day, we have to start winning games here. The whole morale of the team is confident, we just have to go out there and do it."
Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.