Lawrie's grand slam leads Jays over A's
Brett Lawrie may be only five games into his major-league career, but he's already shown a flair for the dramatic.
The 21-year-old from Langley, B.C., hit his first career grand slam in a five-run sixth inning on Wednesday as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Oakland Athletics 8-4.
The grand slam off left-hander Craig Breslow was the first of Lawrie's professional career, his second major-league homer and earned him his first curtain call as the crowd chanted his name.
"It was a moment I'll never forget, for sure," Lawrie said.
The crowd reaction has been like that since he received a standing ovation as he came to the plate on Tuesday in his first at-bat before the home crowd.
"It was awesome," Lawrie said. "It seems like every time I got to the plate, the crowd goes nuts and gets me fired up and makes me want to hit even more."
He followed that with an eighth-inning double a line shot off the top of the left-field fence. He then scored from second base on a single by Rajai Davis.
The next batter, Yunel Escobar, was hit by a pitch from left-hander Jordan Norberto and the benches cleared briefly. Order was restored quickly.
Lawrie finished the game 2-for-4 with four runs batted in. He is 7-for-18 (.389) with six RBIs since making his big-league debut in Baltimore last Friday.
"I was just trying to get a deep fly ball at that point to allow us to get a run in," Lawrie said of his grand slam. "I was fortunate enough that the ball just carried a little more than I thought it was going to."
'Wait my turn'
Edwin Encarnacion had tagged up at second on the play, so Lawrie nearly caught up to Aaron Hill at first. Hill had gotten on base after hitting a run-scoring single.
"I just had to wait my turn," Lawrie said.
Once he reached the dugout, Lawrie's enthusiasm bubbled over as he was greeted my teammates.
"I was so caught up in the moment," he said. "I was so fired up and I don't think I hurt anybody but I don't think a lot of people are going to shake my hand from now on though."
Manager John Farrell was impressed with the Canadian rookie's dramatics.
"Lawrie, at least in the early going here, has a knack for the flair with the grand slam," Farrell said. "Probably the more impressive one was the double off the top of the wall. Just a hard line drive. Just the energy that he plays with, the way ran the bases, just an outstanding night for his part all the way around."
This knack for doing things with a flair obviously has crowd appeal.
"I think it's just the heat of the moment," Lawrie said. "I've always been a guy who's been fired up. I like to get fired up, I like to get everyone else going. I like to be that spark I guess you could say."
Almost overlooked was the major-league debut of another 21-year-old, Henderson Alvarez who was called up from double-A New Hampshire to make the start.
He allowed three runs and eight hits, including David DeJesus' eighth home run of the season. Alvarez, whose fastball reached 97 miles an hour, struck out four. He also allowed a walk and hit a batter.
"The first outing by Alvarez it was encouraging," Farrell said. "You're looking at very good arm strength. He threw some change-ups that had swing-and-missability, late almost split type of action to it. He threw some sliders in there that he got a couple of outs with. He wasn't afraid to go to it. I thought he used it enough."
Casey Janssen (4-0) who took over from Alvarez in the sixth got the win.
Oakland (52-64) picked up a run in the ninth when Josh Willingham hit his 19th homer of the season against reliever Jesse Litsch. Litsch pitched 2 2-3 innings and earned his first save for Toronto (59-57).
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (9-10) took a 3-1 lead into the sixth but left with the bases loaded with none out for Breslow. Adam Lind's double and walks to Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus had filled the bases.
Before Rasmus walked, he missed a bunt and Lind was caught off second, but catcher Kurt Suzuki's throw went into centre field for an error to put runners at second and third. Hill singled in a run with the bases loaded to set up Lawrie's heroics.
With the count at 2-0, Lawrie smashed a 90-m.p.h. fastball over the left-field fence to put the Blue Jays into a 6-3 lead.
The Canadian had to wave from the dugout when the crowd chanted his name after the grand slam.
"I was trying to go away," Breslow said. "We tried to go in on the first two pitches and I missed. Obviously, behind 2-0 with the bases loaded I've got to come in and throw a strike. We tried to go down and away and ended up missing, which you can't afford. He put a good swing on it and hit the ball out of the park.
"I could tell it was a little bit louder when I came in and saw the celebration. It was a big hit. I probably wouldn't have chosen to celebrate it that way but he got the best of me."
It was an eventful day. The Blue Jays had been defending themselves to the media after an ESPN: The Magazine story accused the team of stealing catcher's signs at Rogers Centre. In the article, four players from a team not identified in the story suggested the Blue Jays used someone in the stands to send signs to the hitters in April of 2010.
The story said Blue Jays right-fielder Jose Bautista and a player in the visitors' bullpen in right field exchanged words at the time.
Bautista said Wednesday the team was the Chicago White Sox.
Some of the fans at Wednesday's game got in the spirit of things, flashing their own signs on the subject, including one that said "Fastball" and another that said "Curve". White T-shirts dotted the seats near the visiting bullpen. The person supposedly relaying signs was said in the article to be wearing white.
"I've been in the organization for a long time, this is my second year as a GM," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said before the game. "I've never gotten a phone call, e-mail, or a text, nothing relating to this. It's never come up, ever."
Escobar, who singled with one out, scored on Lind's single to give the Blue Jays a first-inning run.
After Alvarez struck out three in a row, including Willingham to lead off the fourth, the A's got to the young pitcher for three runs. DeJesus homered, Conor Jackson had an infield single and Ryan Sweeney doubled him home.
After a passed ball, Scott Sizemore singled with two out to make the score 3-1. Rasmus made a fine catch at the warning track in centre field to end the rally.
Alvarez left two runners on for Janssen who loaded the bases on a single by Jemile Weeks before striking out Cliff Pennington to end the threat.
The Blue Jays scored in the seventh on a single by Bautista and a double by Encarnacion.