The Guardians and the Blue Jays traded blows Sunday afternoon before Kole Calhoun and Ramón Laureano combined to deliver the knockout punch in extra innings of a 10-7 road win.
By taking two out of three against Toronto this weekend, Cleveland claimed their first series win since July 26, when they took two out of three from the Kansas City Royals.
In a game that with seven lead changes, the outcome was ultimately determined in the eleventh inning. With two outs, runners on second and third base, and the scored tied, Calhoun crushed a two-run double over the head of George Springer in right field to give Cleveland the lead. Then Laureano launched a two-run homer to make it a four-run advantage.
Emmanuel Clase, who entered in the tenth frame, returned to the mound for the bottom of eleventh to secure the final three outs. He surrendered a single to Daulton Varsho and a sac fly to Whit Merrifield before striking out Danny Jansen and Cavan Biggio to end the game.
Noah Syndergaard, making his final start in a Guardians uniform as he was designated for assignment after the game, did what he has done throughout his brief stint in Cleveland: Served up home runs. Predictably, he gave up a two-run moonshot to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the first inning to spot the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. José Ramírez returned the favor against Toronto starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi with a two-run golf shot in the second inning.
Kikuchi wasn’t nearly as effective against the Guardians’ lineup as he was in his previous start earlier this month, during which he went seven innings and only surrendered three hits and one earned run. After José’s homer, Cleveland was able to rough up Kikuchi in the fourth inning, sparked by a Kole Calhoun leadoff double. Tyler Freeman’s RBI single plated the go-ahead run and Myles Straw dropped a two-out RBI single into center field to make it a 4-2 lead.
Unfortunately, with Syndergaard staging his own personal home run derby, that lead did not last. George Springer cut it two a one-run lead in the fourth inning with a solo shot, though he was aided by a missed strike three call. This is where I’ll mention that home plate umpire Shane Livensparger was atrocious. There was no rhyme or reason to his calls, leaving both teams to spend much of the afternoon guessing at the difference between a ball and a strike.
I mean, see for yourself:
Livensparger even managed to impact the game beyond balls and strikes. In the fifth inning, Oscar Gonzalez hit a grounder to Bo Bichette, whose throw to first base forced Brandon Belt off the bag. Belt tried to tag Gonzalez as he went by but whiffed and the first base umpire called him safe. But then Livensparger overruled the first base umpire and ruled that Gonzalez was out, prompting a challenge from Terry Francona. The video was inconclusive and the out call stood.
In the sixth inning, the Blue Jays regained the lead on a two-run homer by Davis Schneider, with Syndergaard’s afternoon ending shortly thereafter.
Trailing 5-4 in the eighth inning, Calhoun drew a leadoff walk and Ramón Laureano followed with a double to center field, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Andrés Giménez turned on a first-pitch sinker and watched as it straddled the first base line before hopping over the bag for a two-run double, giving the Guardians a 6-5 lead.
This lead was a short-lived, as Trevor Stephan surrendered a sharp RBI single to Daulton Varsho that ate up Calhoun at first base and allowed the tying run to score from second.
With the score still tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning, Francona decided to go with Sam Hentges out of the bullpen. He promptly gave up a leadoff double to Danny Jansen, but Jansen was erased on a heads-up play by Calhoun. Biggio laid down a bunt that Calhoun fielded with a running start before firing to third, where Ramírez tagged out Jansen. Hentges then got Santiago Espinal to ground into an inning-ending double play, sending the game to extras.
The heroes of the game were undoubtedly Calhoun and Laureano. The club’s most recent additions were a combined 6-for-9 and accounted for a combined six runs and four RBI.