TORONTO – Brian Tallet went from chasing a no-hitter in the seventh inning to fighting for damage-control in a snap Monday night, and the fortunes of his Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians see-sawed back and forth after that.
Things didn’t settle until the 12th inning, when Josh Barfield broke a 6-6 tie with an RBI single and Grady Sizemore added a two-run double to break things open for the Indians. The Blue Jays, who blew a pair of leads but erased a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, replied with one last rally that fell short in a 9-7 loss.
It made for a tough end to a gruelling night, their three-game winning streak stopped after losing control of a contest they had a firm grip on.
“Baseball is always an interesting game because you never know how the ending is going to come out,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. “You go from a guy pitching a no-hitter, to a one-hitter, to a tie ball game, to one out to win a game, they had one out to win the game, then you go extra innings and they end up coming out ahead.
“The guys kept battling back and that’s all they’ve been doing all year.”
After Shawn Camp (0-1) surrendered the tree spot in his second inning of work, the Blue Jays (18-10) tried to mount a second comeback and pulled within two on Rod Barajas’ RBI single. After John McDonald followed with another single off Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis came on and got Marco Scutaro on a fielder’s choice and Aaron Hill swinging for his first save.
Rafael Betancourt (1-1) threw two scoreless innings before that for the win as the Indians (10-16) stopped a two-game losing streak.
“It’s a tough loss, but we battled and battled and we didn’t quit,” said Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, whose two-run single in the ninth tied things up 6-6. “That’s a very big positive out of the game.”
The late drama came after Tallet, a converted reliever who had never pitched more than six innings before, took a no-hitter and 2-0 lead into the seventh. But after he struck out Jhonny Peralta for the first out, he hit a wall.
Ryan Garko singled sharply up the middle, leading to a standing ovation for Tallet from the crowd of 15,295, before rookie Matt LaPorta, the prime return from Milwaukee in last year’s CC Sabathia trade, homered to left for his first big-league hit to tie things up 2-2.
Ben Francisco followed with a bunt single, Sizemore doubled to right and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a fielder’s choice grounder with the infield in that brought home Francisco for a 3-2 lead. Tallet recovered to get Victor Martinez on a fly ball to right and Choo on a grounder to second to keep the score there.
“Absolutely,” Tallet said when asked if he was aware of the no-no. “Everybody knows that. There’s what, 15-16,000 people in the stands? I’m sure every single person knew I was throwing a no-hitter. You hate to lose it, you’d love to throw one, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to win the ball game and we just didn’t do it tonight.”
Vernon Wells responded in the bottom of the frame with a two-run single for a 4-3 lead, but Brandon League and Kerry Wood both proceeded to blow saves in the ninth needing only a final strike to seal the victory for their teams.
League coughed up three runs on Cabrera’s two-out, two-strike RBI single, Martinez’s run-scoring double and Shin-soo Choo’s RBI single.
But Wood couldn’t seal the deal, as with runners on second and third, Bautista blooped a two-run single on a 2-2 pitch to knot things up 6-6. Alex Rios helped set up the play by alertly stealing second to put the tying run in scoring position.
“I can’t say enough to the hitters,” said Tallet. “They battled their tails off and just came up a little short at the end.”
The Blue Jays opened the scoring on a sacrifice fly by Barajas in the second and Adam Lind made it 2-0 with an RBI double in the third.
While Tallet didn’t allow a hit through the first six, he had to pitch himself out of some trouble. With runners on first and second and none out in the fifth, he got LaPorta on a fielder’s choice, Francisco on a shallow fly ball to right and Sizemore on a grounder to first.
It was a vast improvement over his last start, when he allowed 10 earned runs in four innings and made for three solid outings in four starts since joining the rotation.
“I just like pitching,” Tallet said of whether he’s enjoying his time as a starter. “Pitching for your team and letting those guys out there know you’ll battle your tail off and that every time you take the ball, that you’re going to give your 100 per cent effort. That’s what I do.”
Notes: Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan (left trapezius) and starter Ricky Romero (right oblique) will head to Florida this week to begin rehabilitation assignments. There’s no firm timetable for Ryan’s return. Romero will make a pair of starts before being re-evaluated. … Lind started in left field for the second time this season, with Travis Snider DHing in his place. … Lefty Brett Cecil, one of the Blue Jays’ top prospects, makes his big-league debut Tuesday afternoon versus Anthony Reyes (1-0, 7.58). … San Diego Chargers draft pick Vaughn Martin of London, Ont., threw out the ceremonial first pitch.