J.P. Arencibia was none too pleased about his manager’s decision to sit him from the starting lineup on Monday, as part of an experiment to try to spark a turnaround for stumbling starter Mark Buehrle.
“Ask Gibby,” Arencibia said, with more than a hint of annoyance, when a reporter inquired as to why veteran backstop Henry Blanco was starting in his place.
But in the ninth inning, when the game was on the line, the Blue Jays’ 27-year-old catcher gave his answer loudly and clearly, crushing Fernando Rodney’s 97-m.p.h. fastball deep to left field to give Toronto a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Arencibia’s ninth homer of the season bailed out Buehrle — who allowed seven runs in a disastrous third inning — while also tying him for the American League lead in long balls. It also led the Jays to just their second back-to-back win of the season.
Prior to Arencibia’s late-game dramatics and the Jays’ steady climb back into the game, it looked like a contest they had little chance of winning after Buehrle gave up a pair of home runs, including a grand slam to Evan Longoria, that allowed the Rays to jump out to an early 7-0 lead.
But the Jays refused to go quietly, and to Buehrle’s credit he hung in, pitched through the sixth inning and didn’t allow a run before or after the tumultuous third.
Until Arencibia’s homer, though, it looked as if the Jays would once again fall prey to missed opportunities. They were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position before Arencibia’s blast, and had failed to score on three previous opportunities.
After falling behind 7-0 in the third, the Jays responded to the Rays’ rally with one of their own, led by a two-run homer to straightaway centre by Colby Rasmus and an RBI single from Melky Cabrera.
Young Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who himself has been uncharacteristically erratic this season, lasted only through the fifth inning, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks.
The Jays added another two runs in the sixth when Mark DeRosa, pinch-hitting for Munenori Kawasaki, hit a two-run wall-scraper — his second homer in as many days — just barely fair to right field, which narrowed the Rays’ lead to two.