Marcus Semien knew he’d get his chance. He’d been on the bench while his teammates erased a six-run deficit in short order. Then his former team, the Oakland A’s surged ahead, 10-8 on a Mark Canha two-run home run.
MARK CANHA CLUTCH AS HELL pic.twitter.com/bkYr8WLcgL— Starting 9 (@Starting9) September 4, 2021
When Semien stepped into the batter’s box next, he had a chance to set a new career-high in homers. More importantly, he had a chance to win the game. A game that had seemed so far out of reach.
It was the opening game of the biggest series of the season and the Blue Jays were blowing it. Rookie pitcher Alek Manoah, who has been a revelation for much of the season, was wild and ineffective. He hit Josh Harrison on the hand, then hit Starling Marte in the head. He gave up a homer to Tony Kemp and surrendered six earned runs over five innings.
After being hit in the head by an errant pitch from Alek Manoah, Athletics outfielder Starling Marte has left Friday’s game against the Blue Jays.https://t.co/gvhsR1aKNR— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 4, 2021
When the Jays came to bat in the bottom of the eighth, they were down 8-2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got the comeback started with an RBI single. The Athletics loaded the bases by plunking Bo Bichette and walking Teoscar Hernández. Alejandro Kirk also drew a bases-loaded walk to set up a dramatic at-bat by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
A’s reliever Yusmeiro Petit issued a first pitch, belt-high breaking ball and Gurriel Jr. deposited it into the second deck in leftfield. Rogers Centre erupted and it was a brand-new ballgame, tied 8-8.
BlueJays have tied this game 8-8. A huge RBI, bases-loaded walk from Alejandro Kirk sets up a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. grand slam. Rogers Centre is very, very loud. pic.twitter.com/JqSI0H0XVF— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) September 4, 2021
The blossoming outfielder also had a key hit in Saturday’s wild 10-8 win. Once again he came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit one to straightaway center. The ball just got under the glove of the onrushing Skye Bolt and scored three runs.
The Blue Jays bullpen did everything they could to make it an uncomfortable win, giving up five runs in the ninth before closing the door. Gurriel Jr.’s double was the difference in the game. Over his last 12 games, he’s batting .381 (16-42) with 3 doubles, two homers, and 12 RBI.
Back to Friday night. As electrified as the crowd became with Gurriel Jr.’s blast, it became deflated after Canha’s answering shot. However, there still seemed to be a belief among the players and fans that there was more magic in the air. It didn’t hurt that the first two batters, Breyvic Valera and George Springer, reached base with a single and double respectively.
It only made sense that Semien would find himself in this position. Twelve days earlier he fielded a routine ground ball needing one final out to seal a win. He inexplicably threw low, Guerrero Jr. couldn’t come up with it and the Jays lost in extra innings.
Marcus Semien makes an error on one of the more routine plays you’ll see, allowing the game-tying run in the 9th inning— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 22, 2021
Love the shot of pitcher Tayler Saucedo encouraging Semien to keep his head up pic.twitter.com/bsj70HB7n9
That had to eat away at Semien and he made the most in his chance to make up for it. After battling Sergio Romo, he lifted a high deep shot into the leftfield seats to seal the team’s biggest and most dramatic win of the season.
MARCUS SEMIEN CALLED GAME— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 4, 2021
It’s exactly the type of win that can galvanize a team, and energize them for a playoff push.
Grichy, Grichy, Yeah-Yeah, Da-Da
Randal Grichuk set the tone for Sunday’s victory with one of the catches of the year.
Grichuk has had an up-and-down year. He was one of the team’s most consistent performers over the first two months. He’s hit just .167 since August 1st (14-84) but his continued solid performance in the field speaks to his professionalism.