It was some five hours before the curtain call and the fist-pumping dance around the bases following one of the biggest home runs of his young career.
Bo Bichette was talking with the confidence of a veteran, not a young player trying to navigate his way through the late stages of his first full big-league season, one with playoff hopes potentially wavering.
The calm would turn to bedlam when Wednesday afternoon turned to night and after a two-homer game from the Blue Jays shortstop, the trigger man in a dramatic 6-5 win over the New York Yankees to keep Toronto’s playoff light flickering.
Bichette’s solo shot in the eighth inning brought down the house for one of the Jays’ most dramatic — and frankly biggest — wins of what still has a chance to be a magical 2021 season.
And perhaps best of all for Bichette and his still-growing team, the Jays weren’t intimidated by a Yankees group that brought a seven-game winning streak to the dome.
“We don’t look at (the Yankees) like that,” Bichette said when we asked him pre-game if this precocious team was intimidated by the Bronx Bombers. “We know what we can accomplish. If it happens this year, it happens this year.
“But I think what we’re going through right now … I can’t really state how beneficial it’s going to be going forward. We’re just focused on how much better we can be, either way.”
The Jays certainly got a taste of what awaits in Toronto, should they continue on the trajectory towards being perennial contenders.
A near-sellout crowd of 29,601 at the Rogers Centre erupted when Bichette’s second homer of the night just cleared the wall in centre field to reclaim a lead his team had held for much of the night.
It was a crucial win, of course, keeping the Jays in the chase of both the Yankees and Red Sox for an American League wild-card spot. Boston kept maintained a one-game edge for the second spot with a win over the Orioles but the Jays moved to within two of the Yankees for the first berth.
As much as anything, Wednesday’s win once again showed how resilient the team can be.
They took it to Yankees ace Gerrit Cole early — thanks to Bichette’s first dinger of the night, three hits from George Springer and a record-setting round-tripper from Marcus Semien.
A playoff pursuit can be an excruciating thing, one that builds character or causes a player or a team to wilt. The Jays are growing significantly from the process.
“A playoff race, learning how to deal with the adrenalin … I just think it’s something that is pretty easily taken care of when you put in the work,” Bichette said. “The (Yankees) are just another team trying to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish. I don’t look at them as at a higher standard than us.”
In improving to 88-70, the Jays showed plenty on Wednesday — from the work of starter Jose Berrios, who no-hit the Yankees through 4.2 innings and gave his team the type of clutch start it needed.
They got it from Springer, who led off the game with a double — his first of two on the night. And they got it from the remarkable Semien, who with 44 homers after his first-inning blast set an MLB record for most round-trippers in a season by a second baseman.
A thrilling night all around, yes, but a learning experience yet again, something Springer has encouraged his team to embrace.
“It’s been exciting, enjoy it and honestly whatever happens happens,” Springer said. “Obviously the goal is to win and advance as far as we can, but (also) to understand that this is the type of baseball we want to be playing as a team this late in the season.”
The 2017 World Series MVP said he’s seen no sign of negative energy from his teammates, but more of a thrill at the challenge of beating a proven team like the Yankees with so much at stake.
“Any time you get the butterflies, I would think that’s excitement,” said Springer. “In my opinion, if you’re not nervous, it means you’re not prepared. I don’t think that’s the case at all with these guys.
“The more you go through it, the better you’re going to be. This is the first full season for a majority of this roster.”
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The Jays will have to regroup for Thursday’s finale of the three-game series, one of four contests remaining. Lefty Robby Ray will be on the mound for the rubber match and hopes of a potential exclamation mark on his pursuit of the AL Cy Young Award.
“It’s amazing, a ball game like this,” said Berrios, who retired the first 14 batters he faced before allowing a fifth-inning double to Gleyber Torres. “That’s why I love this game. (The crowd) gave me a taste of a playoff game.”
And for Bichette and the rest of his teammates, a hunger to make it happen.
“These are the biggest moments of my life so far,” Bichette said. “Hopefully there are a lot bigger ones in the future.”
AROUND THE BASES
The offensive superlatives were plenty as both Bichette and Semien reached 100 RBI making the Jays the first team in MLB history to have four players hit the century mark in the same season. “To do that, you have to play every day,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “And that’s what they do, they’re ready to play every day.” … With his two homers, Bichette has 28 on the season surpassing Tony Batista (26 in 1999) for the most in club history by a shortstop. It was his third multi-homer game of the season … Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s fifth inning RBI double snapped a career-long 0-for-20 drought. It was his first RBI since Sept. 19.