Whenever I try convincing myself Kevin Gregg has done a half-decent job closing this year, he goes and pulls something like this and proves me completely wrong. Tonight he was back to his old act against the Rays, wasting a furious seven-run comeback by coughing up the winner in the top of the ninth in a 9-8 loss. After sitting down the leadoff man, Gregg walked Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, with Longoria eventually coming around when Yunel Escobar tossed a potential inning-ending double play off Sean Rodriguez’s bat away. Yeah, an unearned run, but one that doesn’t score if you don’t put a pair of guys on.
That the Jays were actually in this one was remarkable in itself, given the seven runs Brett Cecil gave up in the first two innings and the 8-1 deficit after B.J. Upton’s homer off Josh Roenicke to start the fourth. Toronto clawed back though, picking up a pair on Adam Lind’s homer in the fourth and two more on Jose Bautista’s in the fifth to make it 8-5. John Buck cut it to two with a solo shot in the seventh, and Bautista crushed his 46th of the year to plate a pair and tie it later in the inning.
The whole comeback, unfortunately, was made possible by an un-Brett Cecil-like performance from Brett Cecil, who was chased after two-plus innings and seven runs, six of which came across in the first. Upton’s homer off Roenicke was the only blemish on the bullpen prior to Gregg’s masterpiece, with Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson, Jason Frasor and Shawn Camp combining to keep the Tampa Bay bats at bay. Cecil, by the way, saw his ERA bump from 3.74 to 4.12 with the shelling.
In the end, a little more entertainment than expected in what looked like an early romp, with none other than King Bautista providing the bang. Can the man do any wrong? His pair of no-doubters bumped his lead atop the AL home run race to 13 over Miguel Cabrera, with Albert Pujols still hot on his tail at nine back for the Major League lead. Toss in a diving play at third and a 15 pitch at-bat to wear down James Shields in the third and you can call it a pretty good game. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Nevertheless, though, a loss — Toronto’s third straight on the homestand and seventh in 11 games to drop to 72-69. Ricky Romero (12-8, 3.51) will look to get it right in the middle game tomorrow afternoon, with Wade Davis (11-9, 4.39) his opposition.