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Pearce's slam leads Blue Jays to improbable comeback win

By Richard Mauntah, Toronto Sun

Toronto - 

We have reached baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline.

And we’ll know by 4 p.m. on Monday if the Toronto Blue Jays will look any different than they do now. But if Sunday was their last day as a group, it was a day to remember.

Baseball has a history of the improbable. This time it was the Blue Jays’ turn to deliver it.

Specifically, it was Steve Pearce’s turn — again — to complete one of the most incredible weeks any hitter could have, capping off an incredible comeback for the Jays in an 11-10 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.

Pearce became just the third major-leaguer — after Cy Williams (in 1926) and Jim Presley (1986) — to hit two walkoff grand slam home runs in a season. And he did so just four days after hitting his first to complete a four game sweep of the Oakland A’s.

And while that one broke a 4-4 tie in the 10th, Sunday’s blast completed the biggest bottom-of-the-ninth comeback in Blue Jays history. About half of the crowd of 46,852 at the Rogers Centre stuck around to witness witness the historic final for the Jays inning. The other half were already in their cars or on public transit, more than likely kicking themselves.

“You never see those coming with that big of a deficit,” manager John Gibbons said. “Our guys hung around, got good at-bats late and took advantage of a little wildness.”

Trailing 10-4, Brooks Pounders came in to pitch for the Angels and gave up a single to Ryan Goins. Kevin Pillar then clubbed his 12th home run of the season. After Rob Refsynder doubled to left, Pounders was pulled for closer Bud Norris, who immediately gave up a single to Ezequiel Carrera. Rusell Martin then hit a slow grounder to third that scored Refsnyder, pulling the Jays to within three with none out. After Justin Smoak grounded out to advance the runners, Kendrys Morales drew a walk to load the bases with Darwin Barney coming in as a pinch-runner. Then with the count 2-0, Pearce drilled Norris’ final offering to deep left field.

“He missed a couple of pitches really bad early,” Pearce said. “I was able to really lock in. When you are up 2-0, you’ve earned the right to look for your pitch, and he gave it to me.”

After the Jays got going in that inning with none out, there was a sense this could be something special.

“The crowd started to get into it after Russell Martin’s at-bat,” Pearce said. “He hit the chopper which we couldn’t see from our angle. Then we got another hit. It was a good inning all the way around.”

It was not a pretty afternoon otherwise, which explained why so many went home early. After Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer to put the Angels in front in the first inning, Carrera hit his first career leadoff home run just inside the right-field foul pole.

Then came a five-run L.A., inning that chased Jays starter Cesar Valdez.

The Jays played catch-up throughout the day. In the bottom of the third, they scored three times with Smoak singling to score Carrera, Morales hitting a sacrifice fly to score Martin, and Miguel Montero hitting into a sacrifice to score Smoak.

The Angels rebuilt their lead in the fifth when Ben Revere scored, in the sixth when Pujols hit his second home run of the day — a no-doubt line shot to left — and in the top of the ninth on a Luis Valbuena sac fly. Los Angeles meanwhile got shutout relief out of Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, and David Hernandez prior to the ninth.

“It feels good,” Pearce said. “The way we finished the past two games, it feels good to get the win.”

“We just kept hitting. We kept fighting all the way to the end. We showed resilience as a team.”

Matt Dermody picked up his first career win after giving up just one earned run in the final three innings while Norris (1-3) will probably be thinking about this one for a long time.

VALDEZ 'A LITTLE BIT OFF'

Earlier this week, Cesar Valdez celebrated his first major league win since 2010. Unfortunately he could not carry that momentum to his start on Sunday.

The journeyman Jays pitcher, who has spent a lot of his career in Mexico or the minor leagues, was roughed up in just two-plus innings, leaving the Sunday’s win over the Angels after a five-run third.

“He wasn’t sharp, and they hit him,” manager John Gibbons said, adding that the Angels are a different style of hitting team than the Oakland A’s, who Valdez beat earlier in the week.

Valdez fanned leadoff man Yunel Escobar, but after Mike Trout singled, Albert Pujols hit the first of his two home runs.

In the third, Valdez faced six batters and thanks to an error and an intentional walk to Trout, got nobody out before being replaced by Aaron Loup. Five of those Angels would score.

“He was just a little bit off today,” Gibbons said.