Jose Bautista Was One of the J's Who Powered the Jays
Toronto's baseball team was appropriately named, especially on that day exactly five years ago. Almost half of their squad on the field for that game had first names beginning with J, but the occasion was particularly noteworthy for another reason.
Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Smoak were all on the diamond on July 25 of 2016 behind pitcher Jason Grilli, as the Blue Jays beat the Padres 4-2. It was victory number 57 for Toronto, the third highest total in the league behind Baltimore and Texas.
The names, however, were not the reason for the game's historical context. For twenty years baseball had been playing interleague games, so every team had at least played all the others for at least one series in its home park.
Except for this rhyming duo, the Padres and the Blue Jays, who had never met in Toronto prior to July 25 of 2016. All nine previous meetings had taken place in San Diego, which had been an advantage for the visiting team.
In each of the three series, played in 2004 and 2010 and 2013, the Jays earned two wins in each. Based on their success in Southern California, the team was probably a little reluctant to welcome the Padres for their first series ever in Ontario.
Fortunately for Canadian fans, the Jays had the J's and took the opener of the series. Jose, Josh and Justin each drove in a run, while Jason came out of the bullpen to earn a hold.
Josh homered with Jose aboard in the first inning of game two, but a three run blast by Alex Dickerson put San Diego up 4-3 in the sixth. Devon Travis tied it in the eighth, scampering home on a wild pitch by San Diego closer Brad Hand.
It looked as if the Padres were destined to claim their first interleague victory in Canada when Matt Kemp, following a double by Wil Myers, hit a two-run homer in the twelfth. Jose and Josh struck again in the home half, the former with a bases loaded walk and the latter on an RBI groundout to tie it.
Just like back in the eighth, when he scored on a wild pitch to tie it, Devon Travis again came home on errant delivery to walk off the win. Sixteen hours later, and twenty years after the arrival of interleague play, the Padres finally notched a win in Toronto.
Since its approval by both owners and the players association back in 1996, interleague play has endured its share of criticisms. While there have been some interesting matchups, too often the games have featured two rebuilding teams in the middle of August in small market towns.
Also, few fans have been able to figure out which division from the opposite league their team is scheduled to play as, other than the geographic rivals, it alternates on a seemingly random basis. That haphazard scheduling is reflected in the fact that it took twenty years for the Padres to travel to Toronto, and how the Jays were forced to play three series in San Diego before finally getting to host them at home.