By Bob Elliott
It’s a fact.
As much a certainty as a hitter failing to execute a bunt and the next hitter getting a base hit.
As sure as the opposition always seeming to hit the most difficult chances to the weakest defender.
If a team misses a golden chance to score, the other team is sure to put some runs on the scoreboard when their turn comes.
“I seen it 1,000 times,” said Dioner Navarro after the Blue Jays left the bases loaded in the eighth and the Baltimore Orioles scored three times in the ninth for the win.
“It wouldn’t have mattered who we sent out there for the ninth. After we didn’t score in that situation, we could have sent out Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson in their prime. We could have asked them to get one out each.
“And the Orioles still would have scored.”
Manager John Gibbons didn’t sent out a Hall of Famer like Ryan, Martinez or Johnson in their prime.
He went with lefty Aaron Loup with the score tied 2-2 in the ninth after Brett Cecil had thrown 32 pitches to get the Friday save. Loup had two out and a man on first when he hit Ryan Flaherty in the back to move J.J. Hardy to second.
Caleb Joseph followed with a single to centre and Manny Machado with a two-run double.
“Things happen when you miss a big opportunity and fail to capitalize,” said Jose Bautista. “I’m not blaming the guys who were up in the eighth. We had our chances. We left 10 guys on base.”
With a run in during the second, O’s starter Kevin Gausman popped up Ryan Goins, Jose Reyes and Josh Donaldson with Navarro on third and Kevin Pillar on first.
And Pillar struck out to end the sixth with two runners aboard.
Yet, fans left the Rogers Centre talking about the TSN Turning Point being the bottom of the eighth.
That’s when the winnable game got away.
“That’s why pitching is so challenging,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who brought in Darren O’Day to face his arch rival Bautista.
“He makes a good pitch, but Bautista singles to centre and then (Edwin Encarnacion) hits a broken-bat flare to centre putting runners at first and third,” Showalter said. “The game’s not fair sometimes. Those guys got hits because they’re both so strong.”
Encarnacion’s blooper bounced off David Lough’s glove and over his head.
Third base coach Luis Rivera was waving Bautista home before Lough recovered quickly causing Rivera to put up the stoop sign.
Ezequiel Carrera worked a walk.
So, now it was bases loaded.
A fly ball would produce a run and the lead.
A double play grounder do the same.
A ground ball to a drawn-in infield? Who knows.
Russell Martin swung and missed a 1-2 pitch after fouling off two pitches.
Navarro swung and missed a 1-2 pitch, foul off two pitches including one which half the crowd thought was a grand slam to right, which headed foul.
And Pillar swung and missed a 1-2 pitch after fouling off two pitches.
“Darren O’Day is one of the best, if not the best, set-up men in the game,” said Showalter, who pointed out he would have said it before Saturday’s game.
Showalter also noted that his O’s have pitched 18 innings inside the homer dome against the league’s best offence (first in runs scored, tied for third in homers) and had not allowed a homer.
He quickly tapped some nearby wood for luck.
“It’s our fault we didn’t capitalize,” Navarro told reporters. “Every team I’ve been with you don’t score when you have a chance like that the other team scores right away.
“(O’Day) did his job. We didn’t do ours. We needed to put the ball in play.”
It was so easy yet so difficult.
The Jays fared better in the ninth as Ryan Goins singled and Jose Reyes beat out an infield hit facing closer Zach Britton. One out later, Bautista singled in a run and then Britton ended things betting Encarnacion on a double play ball.
“Britton is so effective because he keeps the ball in the park, a left-handed closer negates the other team’s left-handed power late in the game,” Showalter said. “He fields his position, doesn’t walk anyone and keeps runners close.
“Sound like anyone else?”
Sounds like Mark Buehrle, who started Saturday for the Jays.
The Orioles scored against the veteran lefty when Machado doubled off the glove and left field wall of Chris Colabello, a Travis Snider single and a ground ball seven pitches into the game and scored again when Machado scored on a bang-bang play when Delmon Young flew to Colabello. The play was reviewed and the safe call stood.
What will also stand from Saturday afternoon was the eighth inning.
The inning of missed opportunity where a winnable game -- like the two earlier this week at Citi Field -- got away from the Jays.