BUFFALO — Throughout the first 14 games of this crazy MLB season, with increasing desperation the Blue Jays were searching for a way to loosen up their big bats was becoming a source of frustration.
Apparently all it took to wake up at the plate was to fall into an 8-0 hole to the Miami Marlins.
What unfolded after that in the second game of the Jays era at Sahlen Field Wednesday night was bizarre and bombastic and almost ended in the most unlikely of comeback’s for the displaced Canadian franchise.
The Jays belted no less than seven home runs — five of them two-run shots — to tie the Marlins at 11-11 and force extra innings despite the early hole.
They never could get a nose in front, however, and when the Marlins put up three runs off of reliever Rafael Dolis in the 10th, it was basically all for naught.
That gave the visitors a 14-11 lead and the comeback magic was done for the night for a Jays team that was just one-for-nine with runners in scoring position.
The Jays may try to take some solace in the fact that they were finally swinging. But the reality is, it’s next to impossible to hit seven homers and lose a ball game. In fact, according to Baseball Reference, it’s only happened three times in MLB history.
The simple and infuriating explanation for the Jays is that the Marlins scored a whopping six unearned runs. When sloppiness of that magnitude negates the power, it’s never a good feeling.
Still, a team that prides itself by clinging to the fact that they are in just about every game they play, did so in a contest that was as ugly as it was unlikely.
In fact, by the time it ended more than four hours after it began on a beautiful Buffalo summer night, it was difficult to recall that highly touted Toronto rookie Nate Pearson had started the game.
The hard-throwing right-hander lasted just 2.1 innings and exited with his team trailing 7-0. Suddenly, the downtown stadium didn’t feel like such a happy home any more, judging by the long faces in the Toronto dugout.
And then came an incredible barrage that saw the Jays blast balls out of the park in six consecutive innings, from the third to the eighth.
There was Travis Shaw with a pair of round-trippers, his first two as a Jay and the 100th and 101st of his career.
There was Rowdy Tellez, who snapped out of a nasty slump with a two-run blast of his own, complemented by a pair of doubles.
And then there was sizzling shortstop Bo Bichette, who was a remarkable five-for-five at the plate on the night plus a leadoff walk in the 10th. Bichette now has hits in 11 of his past 12 games.
Catcher Danny Jansen hit his two-run homer in the sixth and in the next inning, Vlad Guerrero Jr. added a solo shot to help negate a pair of fielding errors. And on it went.
By then, Pearson had thrown 65 pitches and just 33 for strikes.
So it was a free-swinging Teoscar Hernandez who came to the plate in the home half of the third and he belted a two-run shot to get the party started.
Six homers later — the second of Shaw’s on the night — and the game was tied at 11-11. It was the first time the Jays hit seven homers in a game a decade dating back to August of 2010.
With the game so seemingly out of reach after Pearson and Jacob Waguespack struggled badly, it looked like it was going to be a get-work-in night for the bullpen.
But the closer the Jays got to finishing off the comeback, the more they went to the studs among the reliever corps.
Ryan Borucki pitched a flawless eighth and that gave way to the story of the Jays pitching staff thus far, Canadian Jordan Romano.
Romano got the job done but allowed his first hit of the season — a two-out single to Francisco Cervelli. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched 8.2 innings this season before allowing a hit.
* Credit to the comeback but overall the pitching was dodgy on both sides. The Jays belted out a season-high 18 hits to get to 11 runs while the Marlins hit 14 for their 14.
* Also credit to Shun Yamaguchi, the Japanese reliever who had struggled in extra-innings games in his first two appearances with the Jays. Yamaguchi retired seven consecutive Marlins in his stint.
* Duly noted after the first two games in downtown Buffalo, the ball absolutely ejects out of the park when it is hit anywhere near the left-field line.
* Bichette now has 80 hits in 58 career games, the most in Blue Jays history and tied for 15th most in MLB history.
* What does it take to get to four hours and 21 minutes in a game? The Jays used seven pitchers while the Marlins trotted eight to the mound.