I was there. I saw it all. I witnessed the pandemonium that is Toronto Blue Jays baseball, last night, as the Boston Red Sox opened the three-game series against starting pitcher Marcus Stroman.
As a Canadian, myself, I’m used to the looks that I get for wearing my Red Sox hat and sweater to work. Every Friday, on dress-down-day, I support my team proudly to the jeers, snickers, and disgusted looks on my colleagues’ faces. However, this Friday, I took my wife to the sold-out Rogers Centre, deep in the heart of Toronto. Once we paid $25 CDN for parking, we felt those same looks among a sea of blue; not of water, but of Blue Jays jersey-wearing fans.
Picture it: over 47 124 people, not including workers at the stadium or the casual Torontonians walking around, all of them wearing Blue Jays gear, staring holes right through you and your significant other. “Who’s this guy think he is?” said one fan, as my wife and I walked to Gate 4. Well, it wasn’t so much a walk as a trek. The lineup was gigantic. We got there at 5:15 PM and the place was packed. The lineup forced us to walk almost all the way to Front and John Streets, which seems like a half-kilometer away from the stadium. My wife thought we should pick up a sausage and drink before we went to the back of the line. I ate my sausage before we even finished getting lined up. My wife would tell you I scarfed it down, but I can’t be completely sure it wasn’t just a matter of time and hunger before finally making it to the back of the line. I took to Twitter to inform the faithful followers of BoSox Injection just what was happening:
You have to understand something about the Blue Jays. The team doesn’t get support merely from citizens of the metropolis; the team is supported by the entire country, considering it’s the only Canadian MLB team and the Rogers Communications corporation pumps the country into a frenzy with Blue Jays information. The fact that I became a Red Sox fan was somewhat of a miracle when you look at the bombardment of Blue Jays talk that flows through the country. My wife supports my love of Boston’s beloved team, but when asked who she was cheering for last night, she politely, but not apologetically, aligned herself with the rest of Canada.
When we finally gained access to the gate and arrived in section 211, the view was amazing. The sea of blue turned more into an entire globe. I escorted my wife to our seats through an immediate interjection of a heckler, who noticed my fashionable allegiance to Boston and cried out, “RED SOX?! SERIOUSLY?!” He made it clear that his new goal for the night, as we sat surrounded by Blue Jays fans, was to ride me all night. I turned, with a smile, and said, “All I have to say is three championships in 10 years,” which seemed to gain the respect of the home crowd, including the heckler who grinned and expressed how his antics will all be in good fun for the night. That’s the one thing, if only one, that Americans have right about Canadians. We are very polite, even when we’re being obnoxious. And boy, did he ever have an opportunity to be obnoxious that night.
As good as Stroman was on the mound, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello was dreadful. All of his offspeed pitches looked like they needed a GPS to find the strikezone. It was the StroShow’s first big start back in Toronto, after suffering a knee injury that kept him out of the starting rotation for the first five months of the season. After winning in New York against the Yankees, the crowd buzzed to a crescendo as Stroman threw the first pitch, which was ugly because of how hyped up he was but he soon settled down.
To be fair to Porcello, as bad as he looked, he didn’t allow much until the bottom of the third inning. Blue Jays outfielder Ben Revere grounded out to cash in Kevin Pillar to take the lead. “THAT’S ONE, BOSTON!” the heckler screamed with joy. At first, I thought he was talking to my favorite team, but I was quickly corrected when he exclaimed, once again, “That’s what you get for cheering for the Red Sox, BOSTON!”
My revenge wasn’t because the Red Sox bats started to come alive. Oh no. It came from another inning of ugly pitching from Porcello in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a lead-off walk to Jose Bautista, a fielding error by Red Sox third baseman Brock Holt that allowed Edwin Encarnacion to reach first base, and a double by Justin Smoak that cashed both men in, I was told, “How’s it feel to be losin’ two zip, BOSTON?!” I learned that ‘BOSTON’ was now my name for the night, and I learned that the heckler couldn’t add. He was corrected by his girlfriend that it was actually 3-0, and I turned behind me to smile at him and said, “At least I can do math in my head,” to the laughter of the Blue Jays faithful sitting between us.
In the same frame, Ryan Goins tacked on another run by tripling against the left-field wall, over Mookie Betts‘ head near where we were sitting, so I was able to get a great view of the ball bouncing away from Betts and allowing the Blue Jays to take a 4-0 lead. “What’d you gots to say now, BOSTON?” I had no witty comeback. I was stil stewing from Porcello’s performance in the inning and the errors by the Red Sox defence.
In the top of the fifth inning, almost as if the team felt my pain and made a reply, Josh Rutledge singled in the infield, which was originally called an out but was overturned by instant replay, to score Rusney Castillo. As the fans watched it on the big screen in the outfield, my lovely admirer belted out, “I’ll give ya that one, Boston. He’s safe. But that’s not gonna save YOU!” Nice to see that he was giving me a fair chance.
But not after Porcello threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded, which allowed Blue Jays catcher, and fellow Canadian, Russell Martin to score from third. The laughter and cheers peaked as a standing ovation. I’ve never seen a standing ovation for a wild pitch before; however, their team was winning and winning big, so who was I to criticize? My heckler friend sure didn’t stop reminding me of that. He found at least five other booming voices for the rest of the night to jeer “BOS-TON! BOS-TON! BOS-TON!” after that wild pitch.
After Red Sox designated hitter, and the face of the franchise, David Ortiz found his way to first base in the bottom of the ninth, Travis Shaw went up to bat and kept taking pitches for strikes, to the groans deep inside me. I wasn’t going to show weakness in front of my new fan base, so I held my emotions in check. However, my wife and I felt that we’d seen enough and wanted to get out of there before the mob swarmed us to get out of the building. My wife had surgery on her shoulder and we felt that as people kept bumping her on the way in that it would probably be worse on the way out, as many people in our section had a lot to drink. We decided that we’d watch the game from above the seats before leaving.
As we walked up the stairs, the whole lot of hecklers were up in arms. “WOAH! You can’t leave, yet! There’s still a chance. Look, Ortiz started the hope off right. You gotta stay!” While the idea of hanging out with a bunch of drunken 20-year-olds might sound appealing to some, we continued up the stairs. I gave a parting wave to my new fans and said that we had to go, made our apologies for not wanting to stay longer, and watched the rest of the game from above. There wasn’t much to see, as the game ended shortly, thereafter. The Red Sox lost 6-1.
The night wasn’t a total loss. My wife had a great idea to cheer me up. She felt that I needed to be with my own kind, brothers from different mothers, if you will. I needed to feel like I was with my Bostonian brethren and sisterhood, even if I wasn’t from there. I needed support from the people whom I feel a strong connection with, as I felt when I visited Fenway Park a few years ago. If I couldn’t be in Boston, my wife found the next best place:
I had the O.F.D Burger, which stands for ‘Originally From Dorchester’. Honestly, no word of a lie, it was the absolute best burger I’ve ever had. My wife’s a smart woman. Must be why I married her.
- Betts played in right field for the first time since winning the job in center field to start the season. The idea was to see which combination of Castillo, Betts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. would best fit Boston’s plans in 2016. Bradley played center and Castillo played left field.
- Stroman went 7.0 innings, allowing only one earned run on six hits, a walk, and three strikeouts. It was a dominating performance for the young man, especially considering what he’s overcome.
- The Red Sox went 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but were only able to score one for a run. They also left only five on base. The Blue Jays went 3-for-10 and left five men on base.
- Only Castillo and Bradley went without a hit, but much of the lineup only had one. They never put much pressure on Stroman that night.
- Holt may have only recorded one error, but he looked terrible on a number of plays. One throw from Castillo even went through Holt’s legs as he went to cut it off. The normally sure-handed utility player looked human.
- Betts also looked intimidated, or at least lost. With the triple off the wall aside, Betts went to steal second base more like he was moving outside the bag to break up a double play that wasn’t happening. He was easily thrown out by Martin, as Betts looked almost in slow motion, trying to decide what to do. As there was already two outs, his odd attempt ended the frame.
Normally, I’d separate these parts to discuss individually. Such is not the case, as I had to sit there and take the heckles only to watch a very sub-par performance from the entire Red Sox team.
Porcello went 6.0 innings, which was incredible that he wasn’t pulled earlier, after allowing six runs, five earned, on eight hits, two walks, and four strikeouts. Even without the wild pitch that gave the Blue Jays a free run, Porcello did not look on his mark, at all. He threw 111 pitches, 66 were strikes but many of them were either completely out of the realm of the strikezone or even rammed themselves into the dirt in front of the plate. It was pretty ugly. I’m pretty sure my wife, rotator cuff surgery and all, could have thrown at least a bit better than that. That may sound harsh, unprofessional, possibly even a bit juvenile, but from where we sat it sure looked that way.
Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree each took an inning and blanked the Blue Jays, with Barnes giving up the only hit. However, the damage had already been done. The grade may not reflect the bullpen’s efforts, but the fact that the team wanted to stretch Porcello out for another couple of innings, for any form of strategy or evaluation that night or for 2016, was a complete joke. They could tell from the first four or five innings that this is what Porcello had, and nothing else.
The Red Sox bats were petrified against the StroShow. They had eight hits, but they never bunched them into anything representing a real threat for eight of the nine innings. The only exception was quickly dashed, as if it never happened. Even when the team made contact with the ball, many groundouts looked more like bunt attempts with no real heat coming off of the bats. The Blue Jays defence made quick work of the Red Sox for much of the game, whether by weak grounders or lazy fly balls. No Red Sox spice meant an easy-going feast for Stroman and the rest of the Blue Jays.
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