By Bob Elliott
NEW YORK _ They came into New York to play the Yankees after losing a series at Fenway Park, the first one they’d lost in seven.
They came with young players carrying Built-A-Bears, courtesy of LaTroy Hawkins.
They arrived to find spiffy blue bath robes in their lockers with their names and numbers on their backs, courtesy of David Price.
Is carrying a teddy bear and wearing a bright blue robe any way to walk around the Bronx when meeting the 27-time World Series champion Yankees?
The Jays changed into their road greys and blue tops and ...
_ Scored five runs on the first 26 pitches of Friday’s game with five homers in an 11-5 win.
_ The 1 Blue Jay Bombers scored three times in the 11th to win the opener thanks to three runs on five walks, a hit batter and a Ben Revere single.
_ And in the nitecap, Marcus Stroman made his debut (“his toughest inning will be his first -- his adrenalin will be through the roof, but he’s in good hands with Russell” said Navarro) as Stroman had a 1-2-3 first. By the time he took the mound in the second he was up 6-0 as the Jays send 11 men to the plate as Cliff Pennington homered, Ezequiel Carrera, Jose Bautista and Martin doubled, Ryan Goins and Ben Revere singled.
Stroman allowed only a three-run homer to Brett Gardner with two out in the fifth, picking up the win as the Jays prevailed 10-7 in a game delayed by rain to bump their lead to 4 1/2 games heading into Sunday’s finale.
And into each one’s life some rain shall fall ... or something like that.
The wild fun weekend in New York was brought back to earth with news that Troy Tulowitzki had been diagnosed with upper back muscle bruises and a small crack in his scapula after Kevin Pillar and he collided in shallow centre during the opener.
The Jays will monitor Tulowitzki over the next week before a timetable for his return is set.
Keen eyes: The Jays found themselves in a jackpot: a one lead blown in the eighth as Aaron Sanchez walked the first two hitters he faced, Yankee runners on each base in the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Roberto Osuna popped up Chase Headley and Greg Byrd ripped what looked like a single to right. Pennington made a diving stop at second and threw to first for the final out.
“That was the game changer, that was a run for sure, maybe two,” said Dioner Navarro praising Pennington who entered the game in the fourth after centre fielder Kevin Pillar collided with Troy Tulowitzki on a pop up that the shortstop caught. Neither played in the nitecap of the doubleheader.
On an on Game 1 went.
Both teams used their closers.
Both used their set-up men.
And into the 11th the mighty Jays boopers headed, as leader in homers and runs scored. It wasn’t a tape-measure shot which did the job against wild relievers Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve.
“They were afraid to throw our guys a strike, so we took pitches,” Navarro said.
With the score tied, manager John Gibbons pinch hit Russell Martin, who had homered twice on Thursday, for Goins.
Was Navarro surprised Gibbons pinch hit Martin rather than say Justin Smoak?
“Actually I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in the dugout -- I struck out with none out and the bases loaded,” said Navarro of his at-bat. “I passed Russell on the way to the dugout.”
Martin looked at four pitches forcing in the lead run and Revere delivered a two-run single _ the only hit of the inning.
“Both managers used all their guys, did a good job keeping the game in line for the next reliever,” said Navarro. “John did a better job, we came out on top.”
Before heading into the clubhouse full of plush, terry cloth robes and bears Navarro was asked if he had a feeling about this team?
“It’s a more together team, Alex (Anthopoulos) brought in guys like LaTroy Hawkins, David Price and Tulowitski, who have all been to the playoffs,” said Navarro. “Russ and I have been too. This is a tight team.
“This team reminds me of the 2008 Rays,” said Navarro of Tampa Bay team he and Price were a large part of losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. “We won with pitching and defence. This team can pitch and field. And we can hit.”
Navarro could have been Anthopoulos’ campaign manager for executive of the year pointing out how Mark Lowe, also acquired at the deadline, took over for Marco Estrada with a man on first and retired Brian McCann and Headley on fly balls sandwiched around an Alex Rodriguez strike out, and returning to Revere.
“Revere is not a household name,” said Navarro, “but he’s fit in well in the lead-off-spot and plays unbelievable defence.”
Umping change: Dale Scott worked the plate in the four hour, 32 minute opener with Joe West at first base. Brian Knight, who didn’t work the opener, had home plate in the second game. Scott had the night off.
Bill Miller’s crew was supposed to work this series, but the commissioner’s office cobbled together this crew after Doug Eddings argued with hitting coach Brook Jacoby, which earned Jacoby a 14-game suspension, and Gibbons.
One from the room: Josh Thole and Mark Buehrle came up the tunnel after the lefty threw his bullpen and noticed the FOX crew which has been filming an all-access half-hour show on the Jays.
With the cameras rolling Thole said “great bullpen Lefty, I swear that last one was 95 mph.”
3-for-3: Sal Butera is one of the few people in a Blue Jays uniform to have been on the field in all three versions of Yankee Stadium.
He was at Yankee Stadium 1 (which opened in 1923 and was the Bronx Bombers home until 1973) in 1968 at a high school showcase as a 16-year-old, invited by Minnesota Twins scout Herb Stien, who signed Hall of Famer Rod Carew.
“I’d been on the subway to watch the game as a 10-year-old, some kids tried to rob us near the stadium, my buddy threw his change and we all scattered,” Butera said. “At the tryout they had us run around the warning track to get loose.
“We stopped in centre field to look at the monument and when we looked in we could barely see second because of the pitch of the field.”
Butera was back at Yankee Stadium II (1976 to 2008) in 1980 wearing a Twins uniform, signed by Stien, who also signed Ottawa’s Phil Franko out of John Jay College in Manhattan. He collected his first RBI in the majors when he singled off Ron Guidry to score Pete Mackanin, the current Philadelphia Phillies manager, in the seventh inning to tie the game 3-3.
The Twins won 4-3 in the eighth when Mike Cubbage squeezed home Ron Jackson facing Goose Gossage.
And now Butera, longest serving scout in the organization, has been added as a coach for September when the rosters expanded.
Top eyes: Not only is Kansas City Royals scout Tim Conroy following the Blue Jays for a 14th straight game, but Royals scout Mike Pazik has been following the Yankees for a similar amount of time. Gene Watson, Royals director of professional scouting showed at Yankee Stadium. The three K.C. scouts seated in the lunch room prompted one scout to ask “are the Royals having their organizational meetings in the Bronx this fall?”
Top eyes II: The Blue Jays brain trust was here Friday with assistant general managers Tony LaCava and Andrew Tinnish as well as pro scouting director Perry Minasian and Dana Brown, special assistant to the GM Alex Anthopoulos. Tinnish flew from New York Saturday morning to attend a memorial for Michelle McRae, wife of Canisius Golden Griffins College coach Mike McRae in Niagara Falls, Ont. McRae coached Tinnish as part of the Brock University Badgers team in 1995.
#SupportMissionMcRae: Michelle McRae, wife of Canisius coach Mike McRae of passed after a year-long battle with cancer at age 46. The baseball community reached out to Canisius looking to support Michelle’s memory, as well as Mike, and children Madison and Mason. Canisius and the fund raising site GoFundMe have created a page to help the McRae family cover medical expenses and to help with the kids education fund (www.gofundme.com/mz3xuevs).