Toronto Blue Jays Kickoff Series with 6-4 Win Over Tampa Bay Rays

The Blue Jays celebrate John McDonald’s
walk-off home run
John McDonald Hits Walk-off Home Run in 11th Inning

Starting the game on the bench, John McDonald could not possibly have imagined Friday’s game ending the way that it did.
With an injury to second basemen Jayson Nix on a hard slide by the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez in the second inning, McDonald was called upon as a replacement for the rest of the game.

McDonald, primarily known for his defensive play and great work with the glove, was his usual self playing well in the infield.

However, in the 11th inning, McDonald played the part of hero, when with one runner on base he drove an Adam Russell offering over the wall in right centre field. The game-winning home run gave the Blue Jays a come-from-behind 6-4 win in front of 23,192 jubilant fans at Rogers Centre.

"I don’t hit too many, so any time you do something to win a ballgame is fun," said McDonald. "Never thought I would have that feeling though."

McDonald is not exactly known for his power. It was the first home run of the season for the Jays infielder and his first ever walk-off home run of his career.
“Obviously, I was happy,” added McDonald. “I kind of watched it a little bit, felt a little lucky too. I was trying to talk to the ball to get it to go further, doesn’t normally work for me. We’re happy tonight.”
Up until McDonald’s heroics, Jose Bautista was the main source of offence for the Jays, having scored all four runs. He was a single shy of hitting for the cycle after hitting a double in the first inning, broken bat triple in the fourth inning and a solo home run in the fifth inning. Bautista walked his last two at-bats in the eighth and tenth innings.

“Not really, I was more concerned with us getting the win and I was just able to get on base,” said Bautista when asked if hitting for the cycle was on his mind in his last two at-bats.

“It took us a while to get that run but it’s great that Johnny Mac was able to come through with a home run.”
Manager John Farrell was impressed with Jose’s ability to get on base and score runs.

Blue Jays Manager John Farrell

“Thankfully Jose had the night he did. He and Edwin (Encarnacion), they both swung the bat extremely well tonight,” said Farrell. “He’s got that ability to not only play a complete game but rise to an occasion when we needed some spark and obviously, he’s more than capable of providing it.”

Jo-Jo Reyes bounced back with a decent start after having poor outings in two of his first three games of the year posting a 0-2 record with a 6.75 ERA. He pitched seven innings allowing four runs off of six hits while striking out six batters and walking one. Reliever Mark Rzepczynski (2-0) made the last out in the top half of the 11th and was credited with the win.
For the Rays, Jeremy Hellickson allowed three runs while matching a career-high seven innings pitched. He allowed six hits, including the homerun to Bautista, while striking out six and walking two batters. The Rays blew their first save of the season when Joel Peralta allowed the tying run to score in the 8th inning.
The Jays have played in many close games this season and are now 3-1 in extra-inning games, with all of those wins coming in walk-off fashion. McDonald believes playing in high-pressure situation games this early in the season will only help the team later in the season.
“I think it’s really good for our young ballclub, for all of our young players to play in many of these games as possible because you don’t want to get into a pennant race and feel like the pressure is always on,” said McDonald.
“So the pressure feels like it is always on because we play tight ball games. You have to learn how to hit in these situations. The more situations you get into like that I think the better we all will play in the future.”
Meanwhile Nix underwent x-rays on Friday night and will have an MRI on Saturday morning to rule out any damage to the ligament in the knee.
“I had x-rays tonight and they came back negative so nothing is broken, so that’s good,” said Nix after the game.
 “I don’t think it was a bad slide at all. I think I would have done the same thing in the same situation. He (Rodriguez) kind of hit me in the middle part of my leg, so my knee buckled and impact to the middle of my leg was also significant.”

Bautista Scores Four

Jose Bautista slides in safe just eluding
tag from Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach

After the Rays opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, the Jays responded in the bottom half. Bautista hit a line-drive that bounced off the glove of Rays sliding left fielder Sam Fuld. The ball bounced over him allowing Bautista to slide into second base with a double. Lind then singled up the middle, just past the outstretched glove of shortstop Elliot Johnson.

Bautista rounded third and just beat the tag at home plate to tie the game up at 1-1.

With the Rays up 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Bautista led off with a broken bat triple. This time it was Rays’ right fielder Ben Zobrist to miss a diving catch, as the ball bounced in front of his head first dive. The ball bounced over him to the wall and Bautista was at third for a standup triple. Lind once again brought Bautista home by hitting to the gap for a double, tying the game at 2-2.
In the fifth inning, Sam Fuld hit an RBI triple down the first base line to score catcher Kelly Shoppach. Then Johnny Damon hit another ball in the same area, this time for a double scoring Fuld, putting the Rays up 4-2. In bottom half, Bautista nailed a ball over the left field fence for a solo home run to close the gap to 4-3.
As the leadoff hitter in the eighth inning, Bautista drew a four pitch walk. Two batters later, Encarnacion doubled to right centre field off the wall to score Bautista and tie the game at 4-4.
The game went to extra innings and in the bottom half of the eleventh, Juan Rivera started the inning off with a single. Chris Woodward then came on to replace Rivera as a pinch-runner. The next batter was McDonald who hit a 1-0 pitch for a home run to left centre field scoring Woodward to win the game.
The Jays will continue the three game series today at 1pm when Brandon Morrow makes his return for his first start of the season against David Price. On Sunday, Ricky Romero faces James Shields at 1pm in the series finale.

McDonald watches the ball clear the
fence while running towards first base

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