TORONTO -- With the Blue Jays trailing the Orioles by a run in the bottom of the fifth inning of the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Toronto came up with two unlikely hits to spur a game-tying rally in its eventual 5-2 win in 11 innings.
Michael Saunders sparked the rally with a lazy fly ball down the left-field line off O's right-hander Chris Tillman, as it had an exit velocity of just 83.6 mph with a launch angle of 33 degrees and going a projected 282 feet before bouncing into the stands.
Out of 262 batted balls this year with an 84-mph exit velocity and a launch angle between 31 and 35 degrees, only two dropped for hits. But Saunders placed his perfectly, out of the reach of Hyun Soo Kim, for a ground-rule double.
"It's frustrating," Tillman said. "You can't defend that. You can't prepare for that. You'd like them to hit at it your guys every time but it doesn't always happen that way."
Kevin Pillar, the next batter, got on top of a fastball that was 4.6 feet off the ground, and he hit a fly ball down the right-field line that Michael Bourn couldn't handle. It also wasn't hit particularly hard, leaving the bat at 92.4 mph with a launch angle of 23 degrees, going a projected 302 feet.
Pillar hit.. 1) was 4.6 feet off ground, 2nd highest ball for a hit this year (Marwin, 5/13) 2) had .141 expected BA.
Only one hit this season came on a higher pitch, and batted balls with similar traits had a batting average of just .141. Yet this one also dropped for a double, sending Saunders to third, as Bourn had to run a long way for the ball and took a sub-optimal route, ultimately just missing the catch. Bourn covered 105 feet with a top speed of 18.9 mph, but he had a route efficiency of just 89.2 percent. One batter later, Ezequiel Carrera's single scored Saunders with the tying run.
Bourn's blunder was in sharp contrast to a couple of great plays he made earlier in the game, robbing Troy Tulowitzki of extra bases in a similar spot in the corner in the second inning, then traveling a long way to grab a Josh Donaldson popup in foul ground. In fact, on that Donaldson play, Bourn's distance covered of 145 feet in 6.58 seconds was the longest anyone ran all season to catch a ball that had a hang time of less than seven seconds, per Statcast™.
"We had some good defensive plays before that," Tillman said. "So I think it kind of evened itself out."