SEATTLE – Bo Bichette had a big all-around game to help the Toronto Blue Jays in their latest win.
The rookie shortstop had a solo home run in the third inning that helped tie the score, an RBI single in the seventh, and some heady baserunning to score during a four-run rally that ruined Felix Hernandez’s return to the mound as the Blue Jays beat the Seattle Mariners 7-5 Saturday night.
However, Toronto manager Charlie Montoya pointed to Bichette’s unorthodox throw to save a run in the eighth inning as his play of the game.
“I told him when he got back to the dugout, ‘Dude, that’s why you’re going to play 20 years in the big leagues and I only played a month,'” Montoyo said. “‘Because I would have gone to first. But you’ve got that instinct and that’s awesome to see.'”
Bichette added a double to get 21 extra-base hits in his first 25 major league games. Only two players have had more — Joe DiMaggio in 1936 and Mandy Brooks in 1925 each hit 22. A great milestone, for sure, but he, too, was more excited by his defence.
That eighth-inning decision to forgo a double-play attempt and throw home to catch designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach was key in an inning that had the potential to get away from Toronto.
“I think I have a little bit more pride defensively because my whole life everybody’s pretty much thought I could hit,” said Bichette, who finished with three hits and three RBIs. “But growing up people didn’t really think that I was going to be a big league shortstop. I feel a little bit more accomplished when I make defensive plays. I guess I have a chip on my shoulder defensively.”
The Mariners wished fans a “Happy Felix Day” upon arrival to the ballpark and the script called for a big night from the former Cy Young Award winner, one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers over the last 15 years.
Hernandez largely delivered, striking out four over 5 2/3 innings and allowing just three hits in his first appearance since May 11 when he injured his right shoulder. The big right-hander, in the last year of his contract with the Mariners, hopes the final five weeks of the season will serve as proof he still has a major league arm.
“People want to write him off and everything else, but when the bell rings and if he’s got enough in the tank to go out there and compete, he does a heck of a job,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Too bad we didn’t get him the win tonight.”
Hernandez got through the first six batters in order on 16 pitches. He helped himself by hustling to first base to earn a force out on Cavan Biggio’s grounder to first in the first inning. And in the second, he charged Justin Smoak’s comebacker and made a hot throw to first for another out.
Teoscar Hernandez led off the third with his 20th home run, into the second deck in left field. Bichette followed two batters later with his eighth home run to tie the score at 2-all. Felix Hernandez then walked Biggio and hit Vladimir Guerrero Jr., before inducing a groundout to get out of the inning.
He faced the next nine batters without allowing a hit and was pulled after his 88th pitch, a double by Randal Grichuk.
Hernandez passed Christy Mathewson to move into 37th on the career strikeouts list with 2,505. He received a standing ovation as he came off the field from both fan bases, and gave a quick wave in acknowledgment.
The Mariners’ bullpen then gave away the game.
Billy McKinney, Bichette, Guerrero and Rowdy Tellez drove in runs in the inning as the Blue Jays batted around.
Matt Wisler and Reggie McClain (0-1) each lasted one-third of an inning in the seventh for the Mariners. The Blue Jays rocked Wisler for three runs on two hits and a walk to tie the score 5-all. McClain then gave up two walks and a run-scoring double to Tellez for a 6-5 lead.
Kyle Seager doubled in two runs for a 2-0 lead in the first and Omar Narvaez hit a three-run homer in the fifth that made it 5-2.
Brock Stewart (3-0) earned the win in his return from the 60-day injured list, though he never pitched with the lead. He was replaced in the bottom of the seventh following the Blue Jays’ rally. He gave up seven hits and three runs, while striking out four.
The Blue Jays have turned T-Mobile Park into Toronto West this weekend. When gates opened Saturday afternoon, hundreds of Canadians sprinted down the aisles and lined the third base line wall eight deep to watch their favourite team warm up.
By game time, raucous Blue Jays fans easily outnumbered hometown supporters 2-to-1. Most drove down from nearby Vancouver, British Columbia, a road trip that’s becoming an annual tradition.
Blue Jays: C Reese McGuire was held out of the game with a bruised hand. He injured his left, glove hand on a wild pitch in Friday night’s loss to the Mariners. He was available in an emergency. … Closer Ken Giles is expected to rejoin the team from the paternity list on Sunday.
Mariners: OF Mitch Haniger says trainers no longer have a timeline for his return from the injured list after a visit with doctors on Friday. He’s now recovering from a back injury suffered while trying to return from testicle surgery.
Blue Jays: RHP Clay Buchholz (0-2, 6.57 ERA) returns from the 60-day injured list after an injured right shoulder sidelined him in early May.
Mariners: LHP Marco Gonzales (13-10, 4.30 ERA) makes his second career start against the Blue Jays.
© 2019 The Canadian Press