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.
The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.
Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.
Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.
Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.