For Blue Jays, a win is a win is a ... much-needed win
BALTIMORE -- If you want to believe in momentum, in turning points, in rallying cries, go right ahead. The Blue Jays aren't going to stop you. But really, they just needed a win.
They needed to prevent a sweep by a division rival. They needed to avoid falling six full games out of first place in the American League East. They needed not to let a prime opportunity for a win slip away.
If it had been 5-2 with no drama, instead of 6-5 in extra innings, that would have been perfectly fine. If it had taken 20 innings instead of 11, that would have been fine, too. However it came, whatever it means, wherever they go from here, the Jays just needed one lousy win.
They got it -- thanks to an early display of power, a mostly solid day from the bullpen and, of all things, a bases-loaded walk to Maicer Izturis. And so they head north to New York in much better spirits than if they'd dropped this one.
"It would have been a tough game to lose," said manager John Gibbons. "No question about it. ... They hung in there and got a big, big win. We needed it. No question about it."
The goal for a baseball team is to keep everything even. Put in the same amount of effort, the same amount of energy, maintain the same emotional balance, every single day for six months. If you can't do that, if you can't separate each day and put in a normal day's work regardless of what happened yesterday, you probably aren't even going to make the Majors.
Even so, the reality is that sometimes you invest more in a game. Sometimes you go all-out to make sure a potential win doesn't get away from you. Sometimes you know it's going to sting worse than usual if you have to watch the other guys shaking hands on the field.
This was without a doubt one of those games for Toronto, which had lost six out of eight. The Jays hit four home runs off an emergency Orioles starter and took a three-run lead into the bottom of the seventh. They got a mostly strong start from Brandon Morrow, who has scuffled a bit at times this year. To have let this one get away would have been difficult to swallow.
"You play to win every game," Gibbons said. "There's games that have a different feel to them. When you struggle as a team and you've got a lead and it evaporates, you end up losing those games, it's really [tough]."
The problem for the Jays, but also their blessing, is that it doesn't mean a thing tomorrow -- any more than Tuesday night's loss mattered on Wednesday. They certainly feel better than if they'd lost, but if they don't pitch well and hit well and field well, they'll lose their opener at Yankee Stadium.
It's an extremely long season, and the game is littered with examples of seeming momentum-turners that didn't change a single thing. So it would be unwise to make this out to be more than it is.
If Toronto loses three out of four in New York, no one will remember this win. If it wins three out of four, perhaps the late rally and Rajai Davis' assist in the bottom of the 10th will stand out as a memorable moment.
The point is that, we have no way of knowing which way it's going to go. As of right now, it's a single win in a 162-game season. Which doesn't change the fact that it was a badly needed win.
"We've got to clean up our game," said catcher J.P. Arencibia, who homered and doubled. "There's been some defensive miscues. The pitching was great this series and we didn't really back them up with a ton of runs except for today. Sometimes you've got to look yourself in the mirror and say, hey, we've got to fix some things and get that done."
They're one game closer to .500, one game closer to first place, and one game closer to the end of the season. But there are still more than five months of baseball left, for better and worse. The key is to make this the start of something, rather than a blip that's forgotten in a week.
"We didn't win the series, but we've got a lot to look forward to," Davis said. "We've got a lot more season left. We're looking forward to winning some more games."
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.