TORONTO — The Blue Jays share a division with the Yankees, but with Sunday’s incredible comeback win at Rogers Centre, they reminded us all that they’re still in the same league.
No team in baseball has been hotter than the Yankees, who were chasing their 50th win and a series sweep Sunday. The Blue Jays were down five runs in the sixth following another uninspiring four-inning start from Yusei Kikuchi, leaving all signs pointing towards this being the worst weekend of their season, but then something clicked.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. jolted Rogers Centre to life, launching the fifth grand slam of his career to bring the Blue Jays within one and joining Carlos Delgado (1997-98) as the only Toronto batters to hit five grand slams over a two-season span. Then, it was Teoscar Hernández’s turn, providing the go-ahead run in a 10-9 win over the Yankees. It’s the loudest that the dome in downtown Toronto has been all season.
“We don’t quit,” said Charlie Montoyo. “We’re going to keep fighting until the end. Many teams, I’ve seen that when something happens like today, they’ll say, ‘OK, they’re just having a good year. Let’s move on.’ We didn’t move on.”
The weight of the moment was clear. It’s only June 19, but the Yankees are baseball’s gold standard right now, steamrolling quality teams and standing comfortably atop the stacked American League East. Against the Orioles, this would have been a win met with an exhale. Against the Yankees, it’s a statement that the Blue Jays can still hang with the big boys, even if it didn’t look that way through the first two games of the series.
Following two non-competitive games to open the series, this was closer to what we saw between the Blue Jays and Yankees in early April, when the two sides split a four-game series.
At the time, it looked like this would develop into one of the great rivalries of 2022, each side stacked with stars capable of taking over a game at any given point. That’s back when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. flashed his first heroics of the season, launching three home runs with a bloodied hand. He went yard again Sunday, his 17th of the season, as one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters slowly grew back into his peak form.
Even as the Blue Jays began chipping away at the big deficit, each moment seemed to matter.
“Against the Yankees, everything is going to be like that,” said Hernández. “Everybody knows the team that they have and the run that they’re on right now. They’re a very good team. That’s why they’re in first place. We know that if we play good against them and can beat them, we’re in a pretty good spot.”
That postseason feeling was clear when the red and white lights started flashing across the 500 Level an inning earlier than usual, signaling the summoning of Jordan Romano with one out in the eighth. The Canadian closer hadn’t been asked to go more than one inning yet in 2022, but the moment was right. Besides, it’s the Yankees.
“That was a huge win,” Romano said. “After the first two games, it would have been easy to roll over here. That’s not what we do. We fought back and ended up winning.”
Romano can always be seen pacing the bullpen, even with his team up or down by 20 runs, but he had a feeling that he’d be called upon in a big moment Sunday regardless. Between his two innings, he took his pacing into the Blue Jays’ clubhouse, stopping by a mirror for some self-talk. Romano likes to tell himself that his mind needs to be where his feet are. Stay in the moment.
That’s what the Blue Jays’ lineup did to mount the comeback, but it’s something they haven’t always done in 2022.
At times, this lineup has gotten outside of itself and tried to do too much, but this win will go far in terms of boosting the group’s confidence. To be the best, they say you have to beat the best. The Yankees are still the stronger team overall, but with a wild comeback, the Blue Jays showed there’s a way for that to change in the coming months.