Jays 10, Evil Empire 11: Made 'Em Sweat, Anyway

Friday, September 16 2005 @ 10:45 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

When the Yankees scored in the first inning, on a Rodriguez walk and a Giambi double, one was able to absorb the blow. The Yankees lineup these days is extremely scary through the first five spots in the order: Jeter, Rodriguez, Giambi, Sheffield, and Matsui. I was thinking that if Bush could hold that crew to a single run each time through the order, he'd have a good chance to stay in the game.

It seemed like a good game plan, especially after Randy Johnson allowed two walks, a hit batter, and a Vernon Wells three-run homer in the first inning. Johnson then managed to irritate homeplate umpire Fieldin Culbreth sufficiently to get himself ejected from the game, and the Jays were suddenly running loose and free in the New York bullpen.

Alas, while Bush was able to manage the first part of my strategy (minimizing the damage done by the Big Scary Bats), he failed utterly at the necessary second part of same strategy - which was blow through the bottom half of the order and rack up some outs. It was two guys from the bottom half of the order that did him in. Robinson Cano led off the second with a double, and came around to score on another double from backup catcher John Flaherty. Then, in the third inning, with Giambi and Matsui on base, Cano delivered a three run homer, and one out later Flaherty chased Bush from the game with a solo shot. And the good guys were down 6-3.

Pete Walker, having struck out Bubba Crosby to end the third, had used up his quota of goodness on the evening - Crosby was the only batter he would retire. Walker started the fourth by giving up a double, a homer, a walk, and a single and the Jays were now down 8-3. Brandon League came on at that point and Cano reached him for a three run homer and it was now 11-3. And all across Ontario, televisions clicked over to see the James Bond movie. John Gibbons saw an opportunity to let John-Ford Griffin get a couple of at bats and Dustin McGowan get a few innings of work. I myself was looking forward to seeing Shawn Marcum...

After all, the Blue Jays had played 4556 games prior to last night's contest. And just once had they fallen behind by eight runs and come back to win the game. You all know that one, right? It was Sunday, the 4th of June 1989 . The immortal Alex Sanchez, the Jays first round pick in 1987, made the third and final start of his major league career and retired one of the seven hitters he faced. He was followed by Xavier Hernandez, making his major league debut. Hernandez worked 6.2 innings of relief (not a team record), allowing another five runs (three unearned, as Fred McGriff made three errors this afternoon, two of them on the same play in the sixth inning.) At this point, the score was 10-0 Boston. All of Cito Gaston's starters were still in the game, but the Red Sox lifted corner outfielders Mike Greenwell and Dwight Evans at the start of the seventh.

Which is when the comeback began. Boston starter Mike Smithson walked Moseby and Whitt to start the inning, and departed with a foot injury. Bob Stanley came in and walked Mulliniks to load the bases. Nelson Liriano then hit into a double play, spiking the rally, but the Jays first run scored. A Junior Felix double made it 10-2 after seven, and Hernandez retired the Sox in order in his final inning of work.

Kelly Gruber struck out leading off in the eighth inning, but George Bell and Fred McGriff followed with singles. Bell went first to third on McGriff's and the Red Sox tried to nail him - they didn't get him, and McGriff took second on the throw. Both runners scored when Moseby made it three hits in a row, and the score was now 10-4. Stanley got Ernie Whitt on a fly out, but Mulliniks doubled to score Moseby and drive Stanley from the game, with the score 10-5. Rob Murphy took over, and was greeted by Liriano's RBI single. After a Felix ground out, the score was 10-6 for the Red Sox.

Tom Henke took over and worked a scoreless, but eventful, eighth inning. Henke had been extremely messed up earlier in the season (hello! Jimy Williams) - at this point, he was 3-3, 5.12 with just 2 saves. He had actually gone almost two months without a save, as Gaston was using him in low-leverage, non-pressure situations while he rebuilt his game and his confidence. (As you probably know, it worked.) On this occasion, Henke started out by allowing a single to Boggs and a walk to Heep. Ahead by four runs, in Fenway, Joe Morgan played for one run and Randy Kutcher executed a successful sacrifice. But Henke wiggled out of the jam, getting Ellis Burks on an infield pop out, and Carlos Quintana on a fly ball.

Tony Fernandez led off the ninth with an infield single off Murphy, and Lee Smith came into the game. Smith walked Kelly Gruber, and George Bell delivered an RBI double, making the score 10-7. McGriff struck out, but Moseby walked. And Ernie Whitt whacked a grand slam, and the Blue Jays, astonishingly enough, now led 11-10. Dennis Lamp took over and allowed a Mulliniks single and a stolen base from pinch-runner Tom Lawless before getting Liriano and Felix to end the carnage.

Henke couldn't hold the lead, though. Nick Esasky walked, took second on a Gedman sac bunt, and scored on Jody Reed's single. Henke got Ed Romero on a ground out, that moved the winning run to second. The Jays walked Wade Boggs intentionally and brought in David Wells to pitch to LF Danny Heep. Marty Barrett, who had been getting the day off, pinch hit for Heep.

This was one of the great, epic at bats of all time. Wells threw a first pitch strike, and Barret fouled off the seond pitch to fall behind 0-2. He fouled off another pitch. Wells missed with his fourth pitch for ball one. Barret fouled off the first 1-2 pitch. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. Wells missed with his ninth pitch, and the count was even at 2-2. Barret fouled off the first 2-2 pitch. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth. And the sixth. And the seventh. Finally, on the 17th pitch of the at bat, Barret rolled a grounder to Gruber at third base, who threw him out at first. Barret blew out his hamstring trying to beat it out, and would miss the next two months. First baseman Nick Esasky switched to LF to replace Heep, and the legendary Sam Horn came off the bench to play first base. Incredibly - because it would just have to be this game, right? - this was the first time Horn, a born DH, had ever played in the field in the major leagues.

Wells, possibly exhausted by his epic battle with Barret, was replaced by Duane Ward to start the 10th.

Ward and Lamp mowed down the hitters over the next two innings. Ward allowed a leadoff walk in the tenth, and the small-ball Red Sox executed their third sac bunt in as many innings, but they couldn't score the runner. Finally, in the twelfth inning, Tom Lawless led off with a single, and moved to second on a Liriano sacrifice. Junior Felix homered to put the Jays up 13-11, and Ward retired Boggs, Horn, and Kutcher to end it.

The Jays once rallied from 10 runs down against the Angels to tie the game, only to end up losing 12-10 when Mo Vaughn hit a two-run homer off Graeme Lloyd. But that Sunday afternoon in Fenway is still the only time, in 4557 games and counting, that they've fallen behind by eight runs or more, yet rallied to win the game.