The narrative for game 162 could not have been better scripted.
Facing the American League East champions on David Ortiz’s final regular season game of his career, the Toronto Blue Jays sought to clinch a berth in the wild card game. Aaron Sanchez was charged with the task of tackling Boston’s potent lineup, a start that likely would have been impossible had the organization not found creative ways to limit the young hurler’s innings this season. The Red Sox countered with David Price, whom they signed after he had been so instrumental in the Jays’ 2015 postseason run.
The Blue Jays had several early scoring opportunities but, as has been the trend recently, were unable to capitalize. Jose Bautista led off the second inning with a walk, but was thrown out at the plate after Troy Tulowitzki doubled off the Green Monster on what may have been an ill-advised send by the third base coach. In the fourth, a lead-off walk to Edwin Encarnacion followed by a Bautista single put two men on with no outs, but no one could drive them home.
The Jays finally got on the board when, with two out in the top of the fifth, Devon Travis launched a Price pitch 352 feet over the Green Monster in left field that remained just fair to give the Jays a 1-0 lead.
Aaron Sanchez, meanwhile, pitched an absolute gem against the best offense in baseball, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning thanks to some outstanding defensive plays behind him. Sanchez’s one and only mistake in the game came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, when he hung a breaking pitch to Hanley Ramirez, who crushed a 394-foot home run that was ruled fair after review.
The Jays went right back to work in the top of the eighth, with a single by Josh Donaldson to lead off the inning followed by a walk to Edwin Encarnacion. With a chance to do some damage, Jose Bautista grounded into a double play, leaving Encarnacion at second with two out. After a walk to Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki came up clutch with a single to centre to drive in Encarnacion and give the Jays a 2-1 lead.
The bottom of the ninth became incredibly intense when, after two quick outs, Roberto Osuna surrendered a walk and a single to bring Jackie Bradly Jr to the plate. Not one to panic, Osuna got Bradly Jr. to ground out, securing home field advantage in the wild card game.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Troy Tulowitzki’s two-out, two-on go-ahead clutch single off Brett Ziegler in the top of the eighth inning was the difference in this game and the top play by WPA (.242).
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
Jose Bautista’s GIDP with two on and no outs in the top of the eighth was the bottom play would have provided the Jays with some breathing room and was the bottom play of the game by WPA. (-.198)
Aaron Sanchez is the AL ERA Champion
Aaron Sanchez was absolutely lights out today, and his sensational performance of two-hit, one-run ball lowered his ERA to 3.00 – the lowest in the American League amongst qualified pitchers.
Postseason, baby! The combination of Blue Jays win with the Tigers loss means that the Jays will host the wild card game against the Orioles Tuesday night. The winner of this one-and-done game will face the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
Lead Photo: Bob DeChiara – USA Today Sports