BALTIMORE - The Blue Jays' 6-5, 11-inning, skin-of-the-teeth victory to salvage the last of their three-game set with the Orioles could be the launching point for a ballclub that's underperformed and is still searching for its identity.
Or, as was the case the day after an 8-6, come-from-behind victory in Detroit on April 10, Wednesday's win could mean nothing.
"We hope (it's a starting point)," said manager John Gibbons. "You never know what's going to spark you."
Through 22 games the Blue Jays sit last in the American League East with a record of 9-13. They are a team that has yet to streak either way. Toronto has won two in a row only once and has not lost more than two consecutive games, which it has done five times.
The matinee in Baltimore served up its share of ups and downs, making it a perfect reflection of the club's unexpected and disappointing start.
The Blue Jays built a 5-2 lead on the strength of four home runs, three of which were solo shots. J.P. Arencibia hit his American League-leading eighth while Orioles' first baseman Chris Davis, who has seven, was held homerless in the series. Jose Bautista, who's yet to get into a groove, hit his fifth. Edwin Encarnacion hit his fourth but, more importantly, his second in as many days. Maybe he's heating up. Rajai Davis also went deep.
"We didn't have a lot of hits but the ones we did were home runs," said Gibbons. "They were solo shots ... (But) you're starting to see some signs of some good things happening."
Gibbons was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes, perturbed after Brett Lawrie was rung up on a 2-2 pitch. Lawrie turned to argue with home plate umpire Mike DiMuro, which brought Gibbons, who'd had a verbal spar with DiMuro in the fifth, barreling out of the dugout.
"I thought there were some borderline calls throughout the game," said Gibbons. "Basically I went out there to keep (Lawrie) from getting thrown out and I asked the guy, 'Where was that pitch' and he chucked me. You know you can't argue balls and strikes but I'm not so sure I was doing that."
The Blue Jays suffered from more shoddy defence, making two errors in the game – one on a Lawrie throw in the third; the other when Bautista battled the sunny sky and lost, dropping a fly ball in the 10th – but two sterling defensive plays propelled them to victory.
With two out in the 10th, the Orioles had runners on first and second. J.J. Hardy lined an Esmil Rogers pitch to left field. Davis took the ball on a clean hop and delivered a perfect throw, without a hop, to Arencibia, who applied the tag on a sliding Manny Machado.
"It was one hop to me so after I fielded it I just got a good look at the runner and knew I had a good chance of throwing him out," said Davis. "After it released from my hand I felt good about the throw and J.P. made a nice tag and the rest is history."
In the 11th Emilio Bonifacio, who started at second base before taking over for Colby Rasmus in centre field in the ninth, made a diving catch on a Ryan Flaherty line drive. Added to Casey Janssen's two strikeouts, the catch made for a 1-2-3 inning.
"It was pretty much a whole team, a 25-guy effort tonight," said Janssen. "We're only as strong as each other. We need everybody on this team to compete and play well. Everyone kind of chipped in in their own little way tonight and hopefully everyone kind of feels a part of this and comes to the field tomorrow and gets ready for a big series against New York."
Whether momentum exists – one day's result carrying over to the next game – will always be debated. It can't be quantified. But Janssen knows who best can control a game's outcome.
"I think it starts on the mound," he said. "If our starters give our offence a chance to swing the bats and give us a chance to win it makes our lives in the bullpen a lot easier. Just the resiliency and not giving up; it's not always going to be perfect for 162 games but as long as we're competing and giving it all we have every night more times than not we're going to be on the right side at the end."