Thank you, Joey Bats.
As he took to the field at Rogers Centre in what was likely his last game in Toronto as a Blue Jay, José Bautista was greeted with a warm reception as a sellout crowd rose to their feet and cheered for the man who has given so much in his ten-year tenure in Toronto.
End of an Era? Bautista Gets Fitting Sendoff From Fans, Teammates
Heading into Sunday, Bautista had gone just 3-for-39 in his last 11 games, but responded in a big way in each of his at-bats, with the exception of his last one where he anticlimactically popped out to third baseman Todd Frazier. The six-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger—all of those achievements coming during his decade in Toronto—got a couple of base hits, walked, scored and picked up an RBI with the bases loaded with one of his singles through the gap into right field.
After manager John Gibbons pulled the legendary outfielder with one out in the top of the ninth inning to give him a chance to say a proper goodbye to a crowd of 47,394 emotional fans, Bautista was just as emotional as he hugged all his teammates on his way off the field before running through the dugout and coming back on to give one last salute to the fans, who gave him a thunderous standing ovation.
“A lot of good emotions,” a teary-eyed Bautista said. “It’s good to be recognized and it’s good to feel the love. I appreciate everything that happened today.”
The 36-year-old outfielder had signed a one-year, $18-million deal with his most successful team coming into the 2017 season, with a mutual option for 2018 that will almost certainly not be picked up.
Before the first pitch, the entire team decided to let Bautista take his position on the field alone to commemorate the occasion, allowing the right field to soak in the atmosphere and wave to the crowd—who were already on their feet.
“We just decided it was probably better if he took the field alone to give him the credit that he deserved,” teammate and fellow outfielder Kevin Pillar said. “It’s just about showing our respects to him and to show how much he’s meant to us, as teammates, how much he’s meant to the city and how much he’s meant to this organization.”
“It’s special to see how much the fans and the entire country of Canada appreciates him and they should because he’s had a remarkable career,” said starter Marcus Stroman, who considers Bautista to be one of his best friends on the team. ”I hope he’s back. I hope this is not the last home game I have with him.”
“He helped rebuild the team, he was the face of the franchise for a number of years, and he did it the right way,” Gibbons said of Bautista.
Hernández Makes It Three in Three Days to Open Toronto’s Offensive Charge
Rookie outfielder Teoscar Hernández, meanwhile, would continue his glorious month of September, opening the scoring in the first with a solo shot to left on the second pitch he saw to hit his first leadoff homer. This was Hernández’s third homer in as many days—and his fifth since being called up from the minor leagues on September 1—and even more impressively, he became the first rookie in franchise history to complete such a feat.
The Blue Jays would build on this lead in the second as Darwin Barney plated Pillar with a sac fly to centre to double Toronto’s lead. An inning later, with the bases loaded and two outs, Russell Martin would clear the bases with a double to right field off reliever Jonathan Holder, further extending the home team’s lead to 5-0.
New York would get one back in the top of the fourth, walking Chase Headley and Aaron Judge before giving up a single to Didi Gregorius, which scored Headley from second.
But later in the inning, Josh Donaldson would get the five-run lead right back for Toronto, knocking a single up the middle to score Ryan Goins with one out, and the Jays just kept piling on the runs.
Two batters later, with the bases once again juiced for Toronto, Bautista would record a big hit amidst another loud standing ovation, threading a single into right to score Hernandez and give the Jays a 7-1 lead.
Kendrys Morales, the next batter up, would hit a single to score Donaldson and Justin Smoak, but Bautista was unfortunately robbed of a run after being thrown out at home plate, which was immediately confirmed after review, much to the dismay of everyone inside Rogers Centre.
Judge Spearheads Late Rally for Yankees
That would be the last of the runs the Jays would score that day as the Yankees began to start chipping away at a 9-1 deficit, all starting with Judge, the most dangerous hitter in their lineup. After a groundout and a walk to open the afternoon at the plate, the rookie would finally get to starter Marcus Stroman, hitting a leadoff homer in the sixth to start the late rally.
Stroman, who allowed three runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, was pulled from the game and replaced by Matt Dermody, who ended his streak of 11 scoreless innings when Greg Bird doubled to drive in Jacoby Ellsbury, cutting the deficit to six.
The Yanks would cut their, at one point, eight-run deficit in half when Judge hit his 48th homer of the season in the seventh—a two-run shot this time off Ryan Tepera—but that would be it for their trips around the bases on Sunday.
Osuna Closes Out Emotional Day for Toronto
Despite the game not being a save situation with Toronto up by four heading into the top of the ninth, the Blue Jays sent Roberto Osuna out of the bullpen to close out their last home game of the season, and he delivered.
In between a number of cheers, hugs, and tears around the entire stadium, Osuna pitched an absolute pearl of a ninth inning, striking out the side—including Judge, who was the last batter he faced—to send everyone home happy.
The Blue Jays will hit the road one last time this season, starting on Monday with a three-game series against the division-leading Red Sox at Fenway before taking Thursday off and returning to the Bronx to face the Yankees to wrap up the season with a three-game series next weekend.