An eight-run deficit after two innings is never a good place to be. It leaves the manager scrambling to organize his bullpen and it forces the general manager to recharge his cell phone as he attempts to coordinate possible roster moves to provide fresh arms. In the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, though, what appeared to be a dangerous position actually seemed to light a fire under them. A fire that the Cincinnati Reds couldn't handle as Toronto surged to a stunning 14-9 victory.
It's not easy to do, but Toronto's comeback was relentless once it got rolling. In the third inning, former Red Edwin Encarnacion started the barrage with a three-run home run, his 22nd of the season. After Cincinnati extended the lead to 9-3 in the fifth, Toronto chipped away with two runs in the sixth on RBIs from Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie, and then plated three more off a debuting Jumbo Diaz in the seventh.
In the eighth, the game was finally tied on Dioner Navarro's double off the left field wall. And at that point, the writing was pretty much on the wall. Toronto's offense was clicking, and despite Bryan Price turning to dominant closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, the roll continued with pinch-hitter Erik Kratz driving home the go-ahead run on a double. The Blue Jays would tack on four more runs which probably felt more like nails in a coffin.
''I don't know what it is,'' Price said. ''Fortunately, it's only one loss. It's an ugly type of loss. It's the type of loss that affects everybody.''
If Price is looking for answers, he should look no further than Edwin Encarnacion. The soon-to-be all-star started the comeback with a three-run homer, and also fittingly capped it with another three-run homer, his MLB leading 23rd.
'After the (first) three-run homer, we got the emotion back,'' said Encarnacion, who set a career high with his six RBIs. ''We were feeling like we could come back after that.''
Coming of a disheartening three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees — which saw their division lead dwindle down to a game and a half — the Blue Jays were probably looking for a quick start to wash that taste out of their mouth. Instead, they were buried under an avalanche of Reds runs. Starter Liam Hendriks and reliever Todd Redmond combined to allow all eight runs in the second inning, which Cincinnati started with a two-run homer by Devin Mesoraco and ended with a two-run shot by Jay Bruce.
Encarnacion's first swing was the change of direction they needed. Once he came through, his teammates followed suit.
''That kind of thing happens,'' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. ''But I can't remember one like this - not at this level.''
The eight-run deficit was the second biggest comeback in franchise history. In 1989, Toronto overcame a 10-run deficit to beat Boston 13-11 in 12 innings. But comebacks like this are rare indeed.
For a little more perspective, FanGraphs gave the Jays a 1.6 percent chance to win after the bottom of the second. That actually dipped to 1.1 percent after Jose Reyes grounded out for the second out in the third. By the bottom of the ninth, their win expectancy was up to 99.5 percent.
A remarkable turnaround and a critical victory. One that's worth highlighting now, because a few months down the road it could be the difference between a postseason berth and a disappointing trip home for the battling Jays.
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