This could have been about Mark Buehrle‘s continued struggles on the mound.
It could have been about his two home runs allowed, including a grand slam to Evan Longoria in a seven-run third inning, and it could have been about how once again, the Toronto Blue Jays were given no chance to win by their starting pitching.
Instead, the team wrote a different story on Monday night. They turned the narrative around with a furious rally that included numerous missed chances, lucky breaks, and timely hits when those breaks came. Most importantly, the Blue Jays turned a potential laugher of a loss against the Tampa Bay Rays into arguably their most impressive win of the season.
The best part? Much of it was thanks to a guy that didn’t even start the game: J.P. Arencibia.
2-for-3, one home run, two RBIs — not bad for someone who was sitting on the bench when the game got going after manager John Gibbons decided to give Henry Blanco a chance to catch Buehrle to see if it’d make a difference in the results, CERA and all, despite Arencibia’s noted dissatisfaction to the situation.
Well, that theory was obviously disproved in a hurry, and though Buehrle managed to stay in the game through six innings of work, Arencibia came off the bench in the top of the sixth with a statement to make.
And boy, did he ever do just that.
Look, we’ve talked about JPA’s game before, and how his perceived value can be as divisive as his all-or nothing approach … so we won’t retread those waters here. But just as there have been examples to demonstrate just how his frustrating out-making skills can be sometimes, Monday was a perfect example of what kind of value he can provide to the game.
Just ask Fernando Rodney, who probably thought he had the game sealed up at 7-6 with Arencibia at the plate in a 2-2- count with two outs. For the Blue Jays, it would be yet another frustrating blown opportunity as they they had managed to get Emilio Bonifacio to third with no outs in the frame as the tying run.
No so. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, the catcher took a 97 mph header down the middle (not sure what Rodney was thinking there) to left field, giving the bluebirds an 8-7 lead that Casey Janssen did not relinquish and completing one mother of a comeback.
How’s that for a statement for the relegation to the bench?
The hit gave the Blue Jays just their second winning streak of the season at a modest two games, but also showed that this team is capable of the type of comeback that would have seemed entirely, utterly impossible only days ago.
Sure, Arencibia will again end up drawing the ire of fans for his lack of on-base ability at some point in the near future, but on this night, he showed why having the power — as in the .723 WPA, game-changing power — can sometimes be even better than just getting on.