By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
St. PETERSBURG, Fla. _ There is an old saying about things evening out in baseball.
It took 163 days for the Blue Jays to get to level ground on the disputed, fan interference, "let’s go to New York" and the replay booth home run decisions.
Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas hit a home run in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series putting KC up 2-0 in the second. The drive was caught by Royals fan, Caleb Humphreys, 19, of Blue Springs, Mo., reaching at the top of the right-field wall at Kauffman Stadium.
Jays right fielder Jose Bautista signaled interference, yet the umpires reviewed the play and determined there was not enough evidence to rule a double. Bautista brought the Jays even with a solo homer in the fourth and a two-run drive in the eighth. KC scored in the bottom of the eighth and despite a ninth-inning rally, the Jays were eliminated.
It may have been 163 days but it only took 11 innings into 2016 for the Jays to get a home run back.
Catcher Josh Thole hit a 2-1 pitch to right centre and a young man (about my age), a left-hander, reached and caught the ball in his mitt.
And like in KC who was working second base but none other than Laz Diaz?
Plate ump Paul Emmel put on the head set as Thole stood on second. And when the ump finished talking with the umps in New York, Emmel signalled home run.
“We got the KC one back, but the one in October was more important,” said Marcus Stroman.
It was Thole’s first homer since Aug. 21, 2013 at Yankee Stadium when he homered in the fourth off Adam Warren in a 4-2 Toronto loss to the New York Yankees. It was a span of 88 at-bats, which is not long in back-up catcher’s playing time.
The fan shrugged and was ushered out of section 150 behind the Geico sign.
Two security guards said an inning later that the fan had been ejected and explained how when fans sit in the first row they are warned: if they interfere with play they can be tossed.
However, the Rays said the fan and his buddy were re-located to a different area. Our trek out to right field brought back memories of Jeffrey Maier, 12, who interfered with a Derek Jeter home run ball in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles.
Second baseman Ryan Goins didn’t see the similarity between that Friday night in Missouri and Monday in Florida.
“Josh’s ball was out, the one in KC was not,” Goins said.
Maybe, but for a time while the umpires conferred with New York, Thole was standing on second, while Moustakas had a homer.
Besides Thole, whose drive tied the score 1-1, Michael Saunders hit a two-run homer to centre field in the fourth putting the Jays up 4-1 and Josh Donaldson hit a solo shot to left for a 5-1 lead. All three homers came against lefty Drew Smyly, who had not allowed three homers in a start since May 26, 2014 when three Oakland A’s took him deep in a 10-0 route. Kyle Blanks, Yoenis Cespedes and Donaldson all homered that day in Oakland.
“Josh went into big-boy territory,” said Saunders, who wasn’t exactly hitting his drive on a mini-putt range. Thole’s second homer off a lefty (he also got Jamie Moyer) travelled 402 feet. Saunders went 412.
Besides the two-run homer, Saunders pulled a double to right off lefty Smyly. His welcome to the Blue Jays moment?
“My moment when I was traded here,” said Saunders, who played only nine games with the Jays last year due to innings “but I know what you mean.”
R.A. Dickey worked five plus innings pitching out of a second and third, none out jam in the first, leaving a man at second with one out in the next inning and allowed one run to score (wild pitch) facing a none out, bases-loaded fifth.
The game unfolded as president Mark Shapiro drew it up in the winter ...
Jesse Chavez worked a scoreless sixth leaving two men on base.
Lefty Brett Cecil pitched a 1-2-3 scoreless seventh.
Drew Storen put up a zero in the eighth stranding a pair of runners.
And Roberto Osuna a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save in as many days. Osuna retired Evan Longoria on a grounder to the vacum cleaner at short, Troy Tulowitzki for the final out, which was good since on-deck hitter Corey Dickerson had homered off Osuna in the opener.
Meanwhile Kevin Kiermaier continues to be a thorn in the side of the Jays. On Sunday he did a Tampa soft shoe to deke Colabello on a grounder to first. He was adjudged safe and then out on the replay. And in Game 2, he lined a single to right and took a wide turn. When Bautista came up throwing behind him, Kiermaier took off for second, beating the return throw from Colabello.
The Jays and the Rays each had seven hits Sunday night and managed one homer apiece.
And on Monday the Rays out hit the Jays 8-7. The Jays outhomered the Rays 3-1.
Now, Toronto sits 2-0 and even in the disputed, fan interference, let’s go to New York and the replay booth home run decisions.