TORONTO – Nineteen innings. Six hours and 37 minutes. Eight pitchers and fourteen position players used, some making as many as 10 plate appearances, to secure a 6-5 victory and a series win over the Detroit Tigers.
It seemed appropriate, at least to some in the groggy media horde that ambled down to the victorious clubhouse on Sunday afternoon (oops, evening), that a fog machine had been used in whatever celebration had just occurred.
"I can't give out all the secrets," said Colby Rasmus, who made two sparkling defensive plays, robbing Miguel Cabrera of extra bases with a catch up against the centrefield wall in the 18th and making a head-long, diving catch of a Bryan Holaday sinking line drive in the 19th. "I can't give out all the secrets. Hopefully it'll keep working for us."
The Blue Jays franchise is engaged in its 38th season of Major League Baseball. Never had it played in a game longer than 18 innings. Never had it played in a game that exceeded six hours.
There were many heroes on this day. Jose Bautista delivered the walk off, bases loaded single, which must have felt particularly satisfying considering it was Bautista's first hit in 10 plate appearances. He did walk twice.
The bullpen deserves the most credit. Mark Buehrle struggled badly, again, and was lifted after allowing five runs (two earned) with one out in the fourth. The Jays trailed 5-0 at the time and all seemed lost with 2012 Cy Young award winner David Price on the mound for Detroit.
Nobody could have predicted that the offence would chip away, tagging Price for four runs before tying the game in the ninth off pseudo closer Joba Chamberlain.
What it meant was seven Toronto relievers would be required to combine for 15 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball. They were up to the task.
Todd Redmond went 2 2/3; rookie Aaron Sanchez tossed three innings; Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan 1 1/3 each; Aaron Loup went a third of an inning; Casey Janssen a full inning and then Chad Jenkins drove the bus the rest of the way. He went six scoreless, his longest outing of the season, to secure his first big league win of the year.
"That was a long one," said an exhausted Jenkins afterwards. "For all the fans who sat through all of it, thank you. That was awesome. I mean, it's really exciting to look up and see it's 7:30 and there are still people here cheering, going crazy, going nuts and it made it so much better."
The Jays sold out both Saturday's and Sunday's games.
The Jays took the series two-out-of-three from the Tigers and did so winning the final two games started by the last two American League Cy Young award winners (Max Scherzer and Price).
The series win gave Toronto five of six against the Tigers on the season. The victory gained the Blue Jays a game on Baltimore, which lost to St. Louis and allowed Toronto to hold serve with red-hot Kansas City, which leads the race for the second wild card spot by a game and a half on the Jays and Seattle Mariners.
Oh, and the Blue Jays open a series in Seattle Monday night (against another former Cy Young award winner, Felix Hernandez, to boot).
Oh, and the Tigers shouldn't sleep on the playoffs. Those Royals are but a half-game back of Detroit for the AL Central lead.
Maybe these wins over the Tigers will matter to the Blue Jays in that wild card race.
As the games and days pass by, the stakes become higher. The Blue Jays, as R.A. Dickey put so simply on Friday night, are "in it."
If you're too young to remember the good old days of the mid-1980s and early 1990s, enjoy this. This is what it was like back then.
And if you're old enough to remember those times, welcome back to feeling like a kid.
Aaron Sanchez is blessed with the physical gifts needed to have a long, successful career as a big league pitcher.
He's tall, 6'4", and most of it is core and lower body. He laughed as he points to his hips.
"I get heat from the guys, they always tell me I've got a grandpa's waistline," he said. "They're always on me about why I wear my pants so high."
The legs are Sanchez's key; any pitcher's key, really. From there he generates the power to effortlessly unleash fastballs which register 98 miles per hour on the radar gun.
He doesn't know where he gets his height. Sanchez has two older brothers and an older sister and said he's at least four inches taller than each of them. He's taller than both his parents.
"There are some cousins on my mom's side who are like seven-feet tall," said Sanchez. "So maybe that's where I get it from."
With three scoreless innings in Sunday's 6-5, 19-inning win over the Tigers, Sanchez has held the opposition without a run in five of his seven big league appearances. All have come out of the bullpen and it's likely the rest will, too, as he gets further and further away from his last start, a six-inning performance for Triple-A Buffalo on July 10.
Just because he's a reliever doesn't mean Sanchez has changed his daily routine.
"I tried to stay running as a starter just because I don't know any different," said Sanchez. "I think that's kind of helped me bounce back better (after relief appearances) than I would have if I did minimal running, I guess to say. I don't know if that makes any difference or not but I've just tried to continue with the same running that I've done as a starter, you know the long distance, the sprint intervals, the stadiums, whatever it is just to get the lactic acid out of the arm."
The Blue Jays toyed with Sanchez working in relief in spring training, culminating with an appearance against the Mets at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. He learned then the difference between taking all the time needed to prepare for a start and pitching in relief.
You've got to "get hot" quickly, as pitchers will say. Then, once in the game, there's little time to find a groove.
"As a starter you've got six innings, two innings to get a curveball and figure some things out," said Sanchez. "As a reliever you've got to come in and just pound the zone and you're stuff's just got to be there."
The Blue Jays need help in the bullpen after seven relievers combined for 15 2/3 scoreless innings on Sunday afternoon.
Left-hander Brad Mills has been added to the roster for Monday's series opener in Seattle.
Infielder Ryan Goins was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.