By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ It’s been said once or twice this year that the Blue Jays led the majors in three categories:
Runs scored, home runs and complaints on ball-strike calls.
And in the final inning of their final game we ask, did they have a reason to complain?
It all went down the drain like this ... with the Blue Jays trailing the Kansas City Royals 4-3 in the ninth inning and none out:
Pinch runner Dalton Pompey was on third after stealing two bases, while Kevin Pillar was on first.
Pinch hitter Dioner Navarro was at the plate with a 1-1 count.
A 96 mph fastball from Royals close Wade Davis sailed outside -- and outside the box on MLB.com Gameday -- and was ruled a strike by plate ump Jeff Nelson.
Instead of hitting with a 2-1 count, Navarro was facing a 1-2 situation. He swung through the next pitch, a 98 mph fastball, as Pillar stole second.
Now, to the top of the order and Ben Revere with a 2-1 count.
Again the pitch appeared out of the imaginary box on Gameday and again Nelson adjudged a strike.
Revere jumped up and down as Nelson’s right arm went into the air.
Instead of being ahead 3-1, Revere faced a 2-2 situation.
He swung through a knuckle curve and headed to the dugout where he used his bat to attack an orange Gatorade bucket and a chair.
Josh Donaldson bounced to third and that was that. Eric Hosmer threw his glove into the air. Cue the “We are the champions” music.
Later, seated in a Lazy Boy chair in the Jays clubhouse, Revere nibbled at his plate of food and then went to his phone. He pulled up a screen shot of the 2-1 pitch which showed the fourth pitch outside the box and showed it to a writer.
He wasn’t ready to talk yet.
A while later at his locker he described the 2-1 pitch as a “terrible call.”
“It changes the whole game, that should have put me in a 3-1 count and he has to throw me a strike,” Revere told reporters. “But instead, it’s 2-2 and that puts me in a hole and now I’m battling. It was a terrible call. You can’t call that pitch a strike.
“I was so ticked off. I can’t say anything to him ... I can’t get ejected. I have to go to the dugout and take it out on a trash can.”
Revere struck out once every 9.9 at-bats (64 times in 634 plate appearances) with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Jays.
“It definitely wasn’t a great call,” he said. “I’ve seen the pitching charts and it was absolutely terrible. It was like six inches off the plate. If I swing at that pitch, I can’t hit it. (Davis) is already tough enough, he doesn’t need help.
The Jays stranded eight men and were hitless in 12 at-bats with men in scoring position. So, it’s tough to blame any loss on two at-bats or two pitches out of the 144 that the Jays saw.
A ground ball.
Or a fly ball.
And it is a tie game and they still might be playing.
Instead it was the worst possible outcome: two strikeouts.
“We should have done a better job hitting with men in scoring position and I don’t want to sound like a cry baby but those two pitches hurt,” said Revere, who does not have a reputation as a major-league moaner.
Jose Bautista, who led the Jays in walks and complaints was asked about the drive Mike Moustakas lined to right field. Royals fan Caleb Humphreys, sitting in the front row, got a glove on in front of the wall. A home run was signalled and the Jays appealed. After the replays were examined in New York the umps adjudged that the called stood.
“I haven’t seen the replays yet, so I don’t think it’s fair to comment,” Bautista told reporters.
Bautista hit a homer to left-centre in the fourth off starter Yordany Ventura to cut the Royals lead to 2-1, just missed a homer in the sixth with a long drive to centre facing Ventura and hit a line drive homer off Ryan Madson evening the score 3-3. Bautista was this close to being in Reggie Jackson territory and in an elimination game.
Yet, Bautista came up throwing to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to Eric Hosmer at first in the eighth, rather than throwing to second baseman Ryan Goins. If he throws to Goins the Jays likely hold Lorenzo Cain at third. Maybe the Royals score anyway, as Kendrys Morales followed with a single.
In another corner of the clubhouse packing for a final time was Marco Estrada.
“That pitch to Revere hurt,” said Estrada, “I don’t understand how they could call that pitch a strike. The fourth pitch to him was a ball.
“I know it’s baseball and stuff happens. I’ve thrown balls and had them called strikes and vice versa.”
Estrada and two other players said Davis quick pitched facing Navaro, although TV replays showed Davis did stop.
Revere made an outstanding catch in the seventh and the Jays almost doubled Mike Mousatkas off first, which wound have been two out and none out. David Price allowed a single and then Aaron Sanchez a run-scoring single.
And Robert Osuna gave up the game winner in the eighth.
“It’s bad, it’s disappointing,” said Justin Smoak of the final inning in the final game as a team with good pitching beat a power hitting team.
There is one more fact:
This wonderful Jays season is over.