Blue Jays squander two late leads, suffer tough loss

Janssen allows walk-off hit in 10th; club five back of second Wild Card

Blue Jays squander two late leads, suffer tough loss

BOSTON -- Almost an hour after throwing the last pitch of the night, Casey Janssen sat inside a deserted clubhouse and watched video from what might have been the most difficult night of his Blue Jays career.

Pitch by pitch, batter by batter, Janssen relived his nightmare. He sat there emotionless, almost stunned, at the recent turn of events that saw a seemingly guaranteed win evaporate and result in a 9-8, 10-inning loss.

Janssen didn't give up a lot of hard contact, but on a night like this, it didn't matter. Boston found holes at the right time and Toronto's two-run advantage was turned into a shocking loss that will have serious repercussions in the club's fading hopes for the second American League Wild Card spot.

"A few of those balls, a couple of inches here, and a couple of inches there, and a different outcome," a dejected Janssen said. "We had the lead late, twice, in a game we very easily could have won. Right now, every game matters. It's a tough loss."

Janssen entered when the Blue Jays were three outs away from an emotional victory over a division rival. Toronto had a 6-3 lead in the eighth and let that one slip away, but somehow managed to battle back and regain the momentum.

Edwin Encarnacion and John Mayberry Jr. sparked a two-run rally in the top of the 10th. It marked the fourth time that the lead changed sides and put the Blue Jays moments away from winning their sixth in a row. More importantly, it would have allowed the Blue Jays to gain ground on a Detroit team that lost to San Francisco, 8-2, on Friday night.

The bottom of the 10th began innocently enough with a seeing-eye single up the middle by Mookie Betts. Another relatively weak grounder went through the left side of the infield when Jose Reyes was unable to come up with a diving play. Everything arguably then fell apart during the next at-bat when Christian Vazquez popped up a bunt that went over the head of first baseman Juan Francisco.

All of a sudden, the bases were loaded and the winning run was on first base with nobody out. Will Middlebrooks followed with an RBI single and Dustin Pedroia tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Janssen almost escaped the inning on a potential inning-ending double play ball to second baseman Steve Tolleson, but his throwing error loaded the bases once again.

It has been that kind of month for Janssen and that kind of season for the Blue Jays. It seemed almost fitting, or at least inevitable, when Yoenis Cespedes stepped into the box and ended the game with a deep fly ball to center field that went for a single as Boston enjoyed its ninth walk-off victory.

"I gave it everything I had," said Janssen, who threw a season high 28 pitches. "I was gassed, but I love to be in that situation. I love it. Wouldn't change it for anything and I was running on fumes, but it didn't matter. That was my game and it just didn't work out."

All of the focus from Friday night's loss will be placed on the 10th, but the collapse in the eighth was just as important. With right-hander Aaron Sanchez unavailable to pitch until Saturday, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons made the curious decision to go with Kendall Graveman to begin the eighth.

Graveman had never pitched in the big leagues and his debut lasted all of one batter. He surrendered a single to Cespedes, and when left-hander Aaron Loup entered the game, the results were the same. Loup allowed a pair of singles and a two-run double as the three-run lead evaporated.

"A lot of contributions up and down the lineup," said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, whose two-run double tied it in the eighth. "Everyone did something in a different way, and that's how you win ballgames."

The loss meant the Blue Jays dropped to five games back of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. Detroit, Cleveland and the Yankees also are ahead of the Blue Jays, and with 23 games remaining, the Blue Jays don't have a lot of time left to make up any ground.

There were lots of positives to take away from the game. Left-hander Daniel Norris looked dominant in his debut and Bautista and Encarnacion each reached the 30-homer plateau. But this time of the season isn't about searching for things to build from. It's about results, and the Blue Jays didn't get the one they were hoping for.

"It's big because of the way it happened," Gibbons said. "You score those two runs in the top of the 10th so you're feeling really good and then bam, bam, bam. A couple of miscues and you end up losing the game. The guys battled all night; nine times out of 10, we win that game."

Before the game ended, the Blue Jays learned that left fielder Melky Cabrera will miss the rest of the season because of a fractured right pinkie finger.

Cabrera suffered the injury while diving into first base in the third. He remained in the game, but had to be removed during his next at-bat when the pain didn't subside.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.