Sports

Jays kids thrown into fire of 13-inning loss

By Rob Longley, Toronto Sun

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Carlos Ramirez throws to the Baltimore Orioles during the 10th inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. It was his major league debut. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Carlos Ramirez throws to the Baltimore Orioles during the 10th inning of a baseball game in Baltimore, Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. It was his major league debut. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

BALTIMORE - In the mess that has been the 2017 season, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Blue Jays can’t even get the feel-good stories to finish properly.

But boy, it was oh-so-close to happening on a damp Friday night at Camden Yards where a pair of young prospects made mighty impressive major league debuts and nearly propelled their team to a win.

Instead, a Jonathan Schoop double in the 13th inning sent the Orioles to a dramatic 1-0 walk off victory to even the four-game weekend series at a win apiece.

The Jays, like the Orioles, had their chances to end it much earlier, though that’s a familiar script for Toronto, a team that has had rouble finishing from opening day in this very same stadium.

What was refreshing, at least, was a heck of a night for a pair of players performing in their first night in the show.

Outfielder turned relief pitcher Carlos Ramirez pitched two impressive, attacking innings of hitless ball in the 10th and 11th inning to keep his team in it, despite the pressure of the situation.

Instead, he remained calm and aggressive, striking out a pair in the meat of the Orioles lineup.

“That was awesome, awesome to watch,” Jays first baseman Steve Pearce said. “He faced a good part of the lineup too and was able to get the job done. That’s just great for the ball club going forward.”

With his two scoreless frames on Friday, Ramirez has not an allowed a run in 39.2 innings through three levels of ball this season - Double A New Hampshire, Triple A Buffalo and with the big team.

“He looked confident,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It's a great story. He showed me a lot. He went through some pretty good hitters too.”

And by keeping the game alive, Ramirez set the stage for shortstop Richard Urena - also in his first sniff at the bigs - to lead off the 12th with a double. Unfortunately, his partners in call up crime - Michael Saunders, Teoscar Hernandez and then Luke Maile - couldn’t drive Urena home.

With the game going so deep, Toronto manager John Gibbons used all five of the players the team called up for Friday’s game, the first in which rosters can be expanded to 40 players.

And all five of them were in action in the 12th, which created some excitement in what otherwise was a game of little consequence for the Jays.

The Orioles got the winning rally started when Manny Machado ripped a ball down the third-base line that Josh Donaldson couldn’t quite corral. That set the stage for Schoop to usher home a big win for the Orioles, a team still in the thick of the American League playoff race.

HERNANDEZ PLAYS THE FIELD

While the result was ultimately disappointing for the Jays, at least the influx provided some exciting moments and a potential glimpse at the future.

Hernandez, for example, got the start in right field for Jose Bautista and will likely see some time shuffled through all three spots in the field over the next month. With a potential opening for next season, the team wants to see what they have in the player who came over from Houston in the deal for Francisco Liriano in July.

Behind a wall of outfielders in the American League leaders, there was some frustration. But when the Astros dealt him to Toronto in the deal for pitcher Francisco Liriano, he figured the Jays must see the potential.

“It means a lot because I got traded for a big guy,” Hernandez said. “Liriano is a good pitcher, an all star pitcher. If they traded me for that guy, that means they want me here and as part of a team.

“They have a better opportunity (for me.) I don;t want to think about that, just keep working hard and getting better every day.”

Once part of the Jays organization, Hernandez reported directly to Triple A Buffalo, where it wasn’t exactly a smooth transition from Triple A Fresno, Calif. But after some early struggles at the plate, he came to life in his final nine games, hitting five homers and going 11-for-36 at the plate.

“At the beginning at the trade I was excited and then when I got to Buffalo it was a tough moment,” Hernandez said. “I had a couple of bad games and then I started getting better and getting my timing back. Then I was feeling pretty good. Now that I’m here, it’s better.”

Working down the list, Urena is expected to get some playing time at short stop and perhaps the occasional cameo at second. He came on in the ninth on Friday and immediately almost made a stabbing, diving play to rob Trey Mancini of a base hit.

Making the bigger jump from Double A New Hampshire, Urena showed his offensive upside and speed with that leadoff double in the 12th, though he was unable to advance home for a potential winning run.

THE JOE SHOW

What seemed like hours earlier, the Jays had kept themselves in the ball game against their AL East rivals in large part because of the best starting effort of pitcher Joe Biagini’s major league career.

To say that Biagini has been a work in progress for the Jays this season would be an understatement.

From long reliever, to starter, to reliever and back to starter again, but only after a multi-week stint in Triple-A Buffalo. Though he didn't have the run support, Biagini was sensational at times, striking out a career-high 10 batters, including the final four Orioles he faced.

“I’m happy with the way I at least tried to be aggressive,” Biagini said. “I know that I’m … capable of throwing the ball aggressively, confidently, all the adverbs. It’s nice to throw one of those in there every once and a while.”

After reaching 103 pitches (two shy of his career high), Biagini was lifted for a parade of relievers after giving up just five hits over seven innings, which matched a career high.

Without the run support, however, the Biagini brilliance was essentially wasted in this one.

QUICK HITS

The Jays are well versed in the heartbreak of walk off losses, now having lost 12 times in that fashion this season. Friday’s defeat was also the seventh via a shutout … The win was the longest shutout victory for the Orioles at Camden Yards, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary season …

Both teams had a chance to win it in the ninth but couldn’t get a run across. For the Jays, a leadoff double from Kevin Pillar was wasted when he couldn’t get home. It took a great play from Schoop to deny the Jays of the run, however, when he gunned down Pillar at the plate after a Darwin Barney grounder to second … The Orioles got the first two runners on in the ninth but couldn’t get either across, sending it to extras … With the win, Baltimore improved to 11-2 in extra-inning games while the Jays dipped to 5-11 … Baltimore’s noted Jays killer Adam Jones learned what Pillar did last week in St. Pete: It isn’t wise to chirp the home-plate ump about balls and strikes in your first at-bat. Jones tried it and was promptly tossed in the bottom of the first.

rlongley@postmedia.com

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