If the Blue Jays wind up winning the AL East in September, mark down June 20 as a game to remember. Starter Liam Hendriks and reliever Todd Redmond combined forces to allow eight runs in the second inning to the Reds, bookended by two-run home runs to Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce.
The Jays answered immediately, as Edwin Encarnacion blasted his 22nd home run in the top of the third, a three-run blast to make it 8-3. In the seventh, following a solo home run by Brett Lawrie and a two-run homer by Juan Francisco, the Jays were within one run at 9-8. Dioner Navarro doubled in the tying run in the eighth inning, but the Jays weren’t even close to done.
In the top of the ninth, facing Aroldis Chapman, the Jays strung together two walks and two hits to go up 11-9. With Encarnacion batting, Sam LeCure relieved Chapman, but he couldn’t get the job done, either. Encarnacion blasted another three-run home run — his second of the game and 23rd of the season — to make it 14-9.
To put in perspective how improbable the comeback was, FanGraphs gave the Jays a 1.6 percent chance to win after the bottom of the second. It fell to a game-low 1.1 percent after Jose Reyes grounded out in the top of the third inning for the second out. Following Encarnacion’s home run in the ninth, they were 99.5 percent to win. The graph at FanGraphs is nuts.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.