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.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.