Reliving Blue Jays-Cleveland epic 19-inning Canada Day battle

It was an epic encounter both Toronto and Cleveland fans remember months later.

As the baseball clubs prepare to battle in a best-of-seven American League Championship Series that begins tonight in Cleveland, we take a look back at their classic Canada Day matchup in Toronto.

On a side note, the Blue Jays have Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins on their ALCS roster, but not for the purpose of having them pitch out of the bullpen in a potential winner-take-all Game 7 against Cleveland.

The Toronto infielders were called upon to take the mound mid-season in a 2-1 loss to Cleveland before 45,825 at Rogers Centre on July 1, in a game that lasted 19 innings, and six hours and 13 minutes.

The Canada Day contest included fireworks in the form of three ejections, along with great defence, spectacular bullpen performances by each team and a big blast for the winning run.

“It was pretty crazy,” Cleveland first baseman Mike Napoli told reporters after the team’s franchise-record 14th consecutive victory.

Toronto matched the longest game in team history after playing a 19-inning contest against Detroit on Aug. 10, 2014 — a 6-5 win — while it marked the longest game for Cleveland since Aug. 31, 1993, when it fell to Minnesota in 22 innings.

Here’s a recount of the last marathon in Toronto:

Remember Vic Carapazza?

Almost immediately, Blue Jay hitters took exception with home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s strike zone. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion was quickly ejected after arguing a called third strike in his first-inning at-bat. A few minutes later, manager John Gibbons was tossed for exchanging words with Carapazza.

Toronto catcher Russell Martin, who could be seen jawing with Carapazza throughout the game, was thrown out in the 13th inning for arguing after he struck out swinging.

Tomlin escapes 2 jams

With Cleveland leading 1-0, starting pitcher Josh Tomlin loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth innings. First, he induced a ground ball from Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak to get out of trouble in the fourth, and kept the home side off the scoreboard the next inning after intentionally walking Josh Donaldson to load the bases with one out.

The right-hander proceeded to strike out second baseman Devon Travis and cleanup hitter Mike Saunders lined out to centre field as part of a 0-for-7, five-strikeout day.

Starters, relievers shine

Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman and Tomlin went pitch for pitch, carrying a 1-1 tie into the seventh inning. Stroman, who retired 12 straight batters at one point, exited after striking out six over 6-2/3 innings, while Tomlin fanned eight in six tidy innings.

The bullpens took over and delivered 23-1/3 scoreless relief innings prior to the winning run.

Cleveland’s Dan Otero, Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Manship, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister, Tommy Hunter and ex-Blue Jay Joba Chamberlain blanked Toronto for eight innings before starter Trevor Bauer was summoned.

“Those guys are going to be really big for us going down the stretch,” Bauer said. “They proved it today.”

Cleveland’s bullpen, which finished second to Kansas City in earned-run average at 3.45 in the regular campaign, had a 1-0 record, two saves and 1.74 ERA in a three-game sweep of Boston in the ALDS.

Last man standing

It was a washroom visit Trevor Bauer will never forget.

Coming off a “fairly intense” bullpen session the previous day, Bauer, who was the scheduled starter the day after the 19-inning marathon, was en route to the restroom about the 12th inning when he was told to put on his uniform and be ready to pitch in relief.

“You just have to prepare yourself mentally and get in there,” an “exhausted” Bauer, who admittedly was looking ahead to the Saturday start and had checked out of Friday’s marathon, said at the time.

By the 15th inning, Cleveland manager Terry Francona had used each reliever in his seven-man bullpen, save for closer Cody Allen, who was unavailable after pitching three days in a row.

Bauer was more than ready, logging five scoreless innings for the victory, including a 1-2-3 ninth with Devon Travis grounding out to end the game.

“I’m just happy we came out on top,” said Bauer. “You don’t want to play 19 innings and lose.”

‘Superman’ to the rescue

Blue Jays centre-fielder Kevin Pillar, a.k.a. Superman, took a run away from the visitors in the 10th inning. With runners on first and second and two out, Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez hit an opposite-field sinking liner to left-centre field that Pillar got a good jump on and dove head-first to make the catch as he has done many times in recent years, saving the game to that point and keeping it tied 1-1.

Barney, Goins take mound

With Toronto’s bullpen resources running low, Gibbons called on Goins in the 18th inning and Barney in the 19th. Cleveland loaded the bases before Goins induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of catcher Chris Gimenez, who has been left off Cleveland’s ALCS roster.

In the top of the 19th, Cleveland’s switch-hitting designated hitter, Carlos Santana, turned on a full-count pitch from Barney and drilled the ball over the wall in right field for his 17th homer of the season.

Goins and Barney were the ninth and 10th position players to pitch for the Blue Jays as their appearances represented the first time in franchise history that two position players pitched in the same game.

“Plenty of us had opportunities to finish the game off and get the [winning] hit, and we didn’t, so it’s our own fault we had to go out and pitch,” said Barney.

The next day, Goins was placed on the 15-day disabled list with forearm tightness.

For the teams involved and their respective fans, the game will go down as one of the most memorable in baseball history. 

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