CINCINNATI – There's a lot to say about what happened at Great American Ballpark on Friday night but Erik Kratz needed only three words to aptly describe a 14-9 Blue Jays win over the Reds.
"It was awesome," he said.
Coming off an ugly three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees, Toronto found itself in a deep hole early after the Reds put an eight spot up on starter Liam Hendriks (six runs in 1 2/3 innings pitched) and Todd Redmond in the second.
All seemed lost, but then the offence, relatively dormant in a stretch of nine losses in 12 games, came to life. As it is with these Blue Jays, as it seems it must be, home runs played a significant role in the comeback.
Edwin Encarnacion hit two. The first was the most important. Encarnacion took Mat Latos deep for a three-run shot in the third, a comparatively meek answer to Cincinnati's eight runs the half-inning prior, but the Jays were on the board nonetheless.
Brett Lawrie hit a one out homer in the seventh to cut the deficit to 9-6. Three batters later, pinch hitter Juan Francisco hit a two-run shot off journeyman Reds' reliever Jumbo Diaz. The score was 9-8, officially nail-biting time for the 33,103 predomiantly Reds fans in attendance.
Encarnacion sealed the deal with another three-run home run in the ninth. By that time the Jays were ahead and the second deck shot extended the lead to 14-9.
Suddenly, Encarnacion is baseball's leader with 23 home runs. He has three in two games, a sign he's coming out of his slump.
"I think we got the emotion back," said Encarnacion. "Everybody in the dugout felt very happy. We felt we could come back."
Starting catcher, Dioner Navarro, hit a two out, game-tying double off Jonathan Broxton in the eighth. His replacement in a double switch, Erik Kratz, hit the go-ahead double off flamethrower Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. That Jays put up runs on Cincinnati's formidable one-two bullpen punch (Broxton had a 0.40 ERA entering the game, Chapman a 0.98 ERA) was a feat in itself.
"His ball, it comes out of a different slot, too," said Kratz of Chapman, who consistently throws a fastball harder than 100 miles per hour. "He's coiled up and he comes at you with the noise and that's why he's had so much success."
Adam Lind contributed a pinch hit RBI single. Jose Bautista walked four times. Brett Lawrie, who missed Thursday's game in New York with a bruised hand, returned and had three hits. Lawrie was one of six Blue Jays who registered a multi-hit performance.
"Yeah, we'd lost three in a row," said Kratz. "Yeah, we had lost three in a row but I don't think anybody was sitting here, like, 'Uh, are we going to win another game?' Just like when we had won nine in a row but nobody ever said we had to win 20 in a row. We tried to win our 10th in a row and I think that's something the team does incredibly well. You saw tonight, grinding out each at-bat. Each at-bat that we grind out is just the way we're going to play the game. We can't beat anybody tomorrow but we can beat them today."
Manager John Gibbons wasn't aware of the specific details but he's been around long enough to know these types of comebacks are historic.
"I may never see another game like that, you may never see another game like that so enjoy it and hope it leads to better things," said Gibbons.
The eight-run comeback marked the second largest deficit the Blue Jays have overcome in the franchise's 38-year history.
Long-time fans, certainly those old enough to remember, will recall June 4, 1989 with fondness. The Jays trailed the Red Sox 10-0 at Fenway Park and rallied for a 13-11 win in 12 innings.
VOTTO TALKS ENCARNACION
Toronto-born Joey Votto is taking it in from a distance. He's enjoying the success his former teammate and good buddy, Edwin Encarnacion, is enjoying in Votto's hometown.
"He's a teammate that I really am very fond of and I'm very proud of him, how well he's done," said Votto. "There are some guys you tune into and you almost, I don't want to use the word 'awe' but you watch and you think to yourself, what do I have to do to get my swing to that point? That May stretch certainly was like that and he and Bautista are two really fun guys to watch."
Encarnacion's 23 home runs lead Baltimore's Nelson Cruz (22). His 62 RBIs also lead the Majors.
So enamored was Votto with Encarnacion's 16-home run month of May, he sent Encarnacion a text on the afternoon of May 29. Votto admitted the message was profanity-laced and jokingly disparaging. He called upon Encarnacion to hit two home runs in the Jays' game against the Royals that night.
Encarnacion did just that.
"He didn't answer me back until the second home run in the seventh inning," said Votto. "He responded back that night and I asked for some hitting tips. He was kind of coy about it."
Encarnacion and Votto were teammates in Cincinnati from the time Votto broke in to the big leagues, in 2007, until Encarnacion was traded to the Blue Jays in 2009.
BAUTISTA AND TWITTER
Jose Bautista is amongst the major leaguers most active on social media.
He has accounts on Twitter and Instagram (@joeybats19) and maintains Facebook and Youtube pages.
"It's part of being an athlete today," said Bautista. "If you're not taking advantage of social media and using it to interact with your fans and giving them a sneak peak into your personal life and how you prepare and what you're about then shame on you."
If you give Bautista a Twitter follow, chances are he'll follow you back. Bautista is closing in on 514-thousand followers. He follows almost 230-thousand accounts.
"I'm glad I've been able to use it in the right way I believe," said Bautista. "Just connecting with the fans and giving them the access that they've wanted for so long."