With the season winding down and playoff spots up for grabs, it was Brett Wallace who came through with a career day at the dish to put his team in the thick of the International League postseason hunt.
It just so happened that the Blue Jays farmhand also wrote his name in the record book.
Wallace clubbed a walk-off grand slam in the 12th inning to cap a three-homer, six-RBI afternoon Sunday as Triple-A Buffalo rallied for a 10-6 triumph over visiting Pawtucket.
"I don't know if I have ever had three [homers] in a game before and definitely not in a situation like this and definitely not in a playoff race," said Wallace, who has appeared in 311 Major League games but none since 2013. "It was the best one ever. I had a pretty good idea [the grand slam] was gone. I knew I hit it pretty good. I knew it was gone or off the wall. The guys were going crazy and they mobbed me at the plate."
The 2008 first-round pick joined Fernando Martinez (2012) and Marcos Scutaro (1999) as the only Bisons to hit walk-off grand slams at Coca-Cola Field. It was the sixth three-homer game in franchise history and the first since May 19, 2012, when Vinny Rotino achieved the feat against Indianapolis.
Wallace smacked the first pitch he saw in the fifth inning from Pawtucket starter Anthony Ranaudo over the right-field fence and added another solo shot on a 2-2 offering from Dalier Hinojosa in the eighth.
"It was a fastball in, first pitch," Wallace said of his first homer. "Just trying to get something early and do something to get us back on the board. The next at-bat was a long at-bat. [I was just] trying to stay through the ball and put a good swing on it. Just trying to hit it in the gap."
With the game tied, 6-6, and the bases loaded in the 12th, Miguel Celestino -- the third reliever out of the PawSox's bullpen -- had nowhere to put Wallace. And after falling behind twice, the right-hander left a pitch over the plate that Wallace muscled out of the park the other way.
"Last at-bat, I wasn't trying to homer, just trying to hit a ball in the gap and make sure it got the run in," he said. "Just thought about staying through the ball and not pulling off it, trusting my swing."
The big day raised his average six points to .273 and increased his RBI total to 48. He doubled his homer tally from his first 28 games with the Bisons and tied the career high for RBIs he established on April 9, 2009 for Double-A Springfield. It was also his 13th career four-hit game.
What made Sunday's performance even more special for Wallace was that it came against the Bisons' biggest challenger for a playoff berth. With wins in five straight games, Buffalo (73-61) moved into a tie with Pawtucket for the IL Wild Card, 3 1/2 games behind first-place Syracuse in the North Division. The Bisons have nine games remaining, including two more with Pawtucket and two with the Chiefs.
"It was a battle," Wallace said. "We're competing for a playoff spot, so the game was important. We can control our destiny. We needed to come in here and get the win. It was a big game for us and it adds to the atmosphere."
Anthony Gose went 3-for-6 with a three-run homer and Bisons starter Sean Nolin allowed two runs on four hits over six innings.
"Early on, we didn't give Nolin much support, but he did the job. And the whole bullpen came in and kept us in the game," Wallace said.
Drafted 13th overall by the Cardinals out of Arizona State, Wallace was traded to Oakland as part of the package to land outfielder Matt Holliday in 2009. He was dealt to the Blue Jays for outfielder Michael Taylor, later that year.
In 2010, the Astros acquired him for Gose, then released him this spring. He signed with the Orioles 11 days later and was purchased by the Blue Jays in mid-July.
Ranaudo fell short in a bid for his IL-leading 15th win, yielding four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three over 6 1/3 innings. Bryce Brentz homered and plated four runs for the PawSox.