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Blue Jays rally past Orioles, stretch winning streak to nine

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The Canadian Press
6/21/2013 11:41:20 PM
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TORONTO -- Munenori Kawasaki had one thing going through his mind as he rounded the bases after his first home run in Major League Baseball: nothing.

Kawasaki had a RBI single in the fifth inning and a key at-bat in the ninth to help the Blue Jays edge the Baltimore Orioles 7-6 on Friday and stretch Toronto's win streak to nine games. But it's his seventh-inning homer that tied the game 6-6 that is memorable -- even if it was a little hazy for him.

"I just tried to hit the ball," said Kawasaki through Yasushi Kikuchi, a reporter from the Kyodo News who offered to translate after the game.

Kawasaki added through his volunteer translator: "I didn't expect to hit the home run at the time. It was like a dream. I was dreaming. In my head was just nothing."

Kawasaki's home run to shallow right field cashed in third baseman Maicer Izturis and brought the 35,472 Blue Jays fans in attendance to their feet. The raucous crowd demanded a curtain call from the Japanese infielder, chanting "KA-WA-SA-KI!" as he repeatedly bowed in gratitude.

"Very happy," said Kawasaki, reading from a small notebook of Japanese-to-English translations. "Thank you, appreciate. Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate."

Rajai Davis hit a game-ending single to cap Toronto's (36-36) ninth inning rally as the Blue Jays reached .500 for the first time all season.

Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind also had home runs for Toronto, while closer Casey Janssen earned the win, salvaging a weak start by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (6-8). Dickey earned a no decision after throwing seven-plus innings, striking out five but giving up six earned runs with two walks.

"It was the crappiest, best game I've pitched, if that's possible," said Dickey. "I had a pretty good knuckleball going into the game and threw a couple hangers up there and they got punished in bad situations but, gosh, what a team.

"To be a part of a team that really, y'know, we're starting to become a family and it's showing."

Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Ryan Flaherty all had home runs for Baltimore (42-32). Orioles starter Jason Hammel (7-4) fanned seven over six innings, giving up four earned runs and four hits with one walk. Reliever Brian Matusz took the loss.

Trailing 6-4, Toronto's seventh began with promise as Izturis singled off reliever Tommy Hunter. Josh Thole flied out to left field and Emilio Bonifacio struck out, bringing Kawasaki to the plate for his fateful homer.

"I would say that it's no surprise, but that home run was a surprise," said Dickey. "The legend grows. The Kawasaki legend grows, and rightfully so."

Melky Cabrera then singled to keep the Blue Jays' rally alive, chasing Hunter from the game. Davis, running for Cabrera, stole second with slugger Jose Bautista at bat, but Darren O'Day struck out the all-star right-fielder to end Toronto's inning.

Baltimore's eighth inning was brief, as Nick Markakis was called out on strikes and Adam Jones popped out to centre field. Rajai Davis got the third out by making a sprinting catch on Chris Davis in left-centre field.

The Blue Jays also had a quick eighth, as Encarnacion, Lind and Colby Rasmus flied out to left, right and centre field respectively. Janssen followed with a three up, three down ninth inning retiring Matt Wieters, Hardy and Flaherty in quick succession.

Izturis started the Blue Jays' ninth with a single to right field. He then advanced on Thole's sacrifice bunt down the third-base line. Matusz intentionally walked Toronto pinch hitter Mark DeRosa -- in for Bonifacio -- bringing Kawasaki to the plate.

The crowd alternated between chants of "Let's go Blue Jays!" and "KA-WA-SA-KI!" as the Japanese infielder worked up to an eight-pitch 2-2 count, grounding out to second but advancing both Izturis and DeRosa.

When asked about the chants after the game, Kawasaki spoke through his translator, saying: "I was just flattered and my leg was shaking." He then cut in and said himself: "I was nervous. I was nervous."

Davis took full advantage of having runners in scoring position, driving in Izturis with a single to left field that ended the game.

"We got to give credit though to Kawasaki, he had some big hits with men on base," said Davis. "My hit doesn't even happen without those big hits."

Lind opened the scoring for Toronto in the first inning, driving in Encarnacion with a home run over the right-field fence to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected from the game in the second after Chris Davis was called out swinging. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez originally ruled that Davis had tipped the ball and that Thole had failed to control it. Toronto manager John Gibbons came out to argue the call and, after a discussion among the officiating crew, it was ruled a strikeout.

Showalter was tossed from the game by Hernandez after a lengthy debate along the first-base line. The Orioles manager pointed to each member of the umpiring crew and pantomimed throwing them out of the game before leaving the field.

Wieters then struck out, but Hardy hit a home run to deep left to make it 2-1.

Izturis began Toronto's fifth with a walk, advancing to second on Thole's groundout to Flaherty. Izturis made it to third on Bonifacio's pop fly to deep right field along the first-base line.

Kawasaki then cashed in the Blue Jays third baseman with a single to centre field. Cabrera's swinging strikeout ended Toronto's inning, with the Blue Jays holding a 3-1 lead.

Dickey struggled in the sixth, giving up a hit to Nate McLouth. Toronto got an out when Manny Machado popped to right, but Dickey walked Markakis and Jones drove in McLouth with a single.

Chris Davis then cleared the bases with a homer to deep left -- his 27th of the season -- to give Baltimore a 5-3 lead.

Encarnacion crushed the 10th pitch he faced in the sixth inning, with the ball landing in the Rogers Centre's second deck. That was all the offence Toronto got in the sixth with the score 5-4.

Baltimore immediately responded in the top of the seventh, with Flaherty smashing a home run to deep right field to put the score at 6-4 and set the stage for Kawasaki's heroic home run.

Notes: A foul tip by Thole in the second inning flied up over the backstop and into the suite occupied by Blue Jays president Paul Beeston. He tossed the ball to the seats beneath his box.



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