10,000 days since Toronto’s most embarrassing loss.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Toronto Blue Jays have lost 2,709 games in franchise history. There have been more important losses, more heart-rending losses, and more memorable losses, but none of losses were quite as lamely filtered away as one that came 10,000 days ago today.

After nine innings, they battled the Orioles to a 4-4 tie in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. The top of the tenth got off to a great start for the visiting Blue Jays, as Cliff Johnson led off the frame with a go-ahead homer. Jays led, 5-4. As an added bonus, Barry Bonnell followed that up with a single. Things were going great.

They were about to go stupid. Baltimore manager Joe Altobelli inserted a new relief pitcher: southpaw Tippy Martinez. Often a lefty will be inserted in relief late in the game to gain the platoon advantage at the plate. This time, the key advantage would be the lefty’s platoon advantage at first base.

Before focusing on batter Dave Collins at the plate, Martinez tried to pickoff Bonnell at first. It worked – Baltimore had him dead to rights, so he made a desperate, futile run to second, where he was nabbed. One away.

It’s a good thing Martinez got the runner at first, because he couldn’t do anything with the batter: Collins walked. Well, if it worked with Bonnell, let’s see what happens if Martinez throws to first with Collins on. Sure enough, Martinez’s pickoff was too good, and Collins was out.

Now, a lefty should have a better pick off move to first – he faces that direction, after all. But back-to-back runners picked off in an inning? That’s plain embarrassing for the other team. But it was about to get worse.

Yep, that’s right. Willie Upshaw, the next batter, managed an infield single – and was immediately picked off by Martinez. Suffice it to say, three batters picked off in an inning isn’t normal. In all, Toronto got four men on base, made no outs at the plate, but came away with one run and none left on.

Fittingly, the Jays blew it in the bottom of the inning. Cal Ripken led off with a homer to tie it, and then non-slugger Lenn Sakata hit a three-run game-winning home. It was his first long ball in two months and one of only two walk-off shots in his career. As bad as delivering a gopher ball to Sakata was, it was nothing compared to how Toronto handled themselves in the top of the tenth. It was some of the worst base running of all time, and it came with the game on the line.

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Comments

  1. Gary Nusbaum said...

    Sakata was at catcher for the entire pickoff inning.  The Orioles had run out of catchers.  It was Sakata’s only inning behind the plate in his career.  Hence, all the baserunners were leaning when picked off.

  2. Jeff said...

    Yawwwwwn, you’re overstating the importance of this.  While it may (and very well may not) be the worst half inning of baserunning in Jays history, it’s nowhere near the most embarassing loss.  A loss when you’re leading by 7 going to the 9th is far worse. This is an extreme non-store

  3. Matthew E said...

    It’s not that it was so embarrassing; it’s that it was so striking. Also: the Jays had been holding their own in the pennant race up until that point. With this game, they went on a slump in which the bullpen blew about six games in the course of a week, and that was it for the pennant race.

    The Jays used to be known as the “Blow Jays”, for their supposed inability to win in the clutch. Playoff losses in ‘85, ‘89, and ‘91, and pennant race losses down the stretch in ‘87 and ‘90 contributed to this, but it started with this one game against Baltimore, and only ended with Roberto Alomar’s home run against Eckersley in the ‘92 ALCS (note: Alfredo Griffin played in both games).

  4. Jim said...

    It should be noted that Lenn Sakata has the highest batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS of any catcher in major league history (1 at-bat minimum).

  5. Rick S. said...

    Due to a bunch of moves in the bottom of the ninth the Orioles had a bunch of guys playing out of position that inning, In addition to Sakata catching, platoon left fielder John Lowenstein was at second base, and, (I think) the other left fielder Gary Roenicke was at third.

    The radio play-by-play of the inning was included in a 1983 Orioles highlights cassette tape (yes – I said “cassette” !) issued by the Orioles flagship radio station WFBR. It’s hilarious if you’re an Orioles fan. Of course it’s rather bittersweet now since that was almost the last gasp of “Orioles Magic” before the dark ages began.

  6. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    As an impartial Red Sox fan let me tell you… seeing the highlights of this on This Week In Baseball was one of the coolest things I ever saw

  7. Latrell said...

    Ummm… the boxscore says the game was tied 3-3 after 9, then the Jays took a 4-3 lead, then lost it 7-4.

    Did you actually read the boxscore before posting this article?

  8. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    No… you made a mistake. Therefore it is obvious that you know NOTHING of the event.

    Don’t you understand “Commenter Logic”?

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