The Dunedin Blue Jays dropped the opening game of a three-game championship series against the Tampa Yankees in heartbreaking, extra innings fashion. Despite a five-run first inning, the Blue Jays bullpen was unable to hold the lead, allowing the Yankees to tie the game in the ninth before Tim Lynch delivered a tenth inning home run to put the Yankees ahead.
It was all Blue Jays in the early going. SS Bo Bichette walked to lead off the game and reached third on an errant pickoff throw. DH Michael De La Cruz singled him home to give Dunedin a 1-0 lead. After a single by 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., regular season home run champ RF Connor Panas launched a towering shot over the wall in right to put Dunedin up 4-0. The inning wasn't over. 2B Cavan Biggio worked a walk and scored on a double into the left field gap by LF Jake Thomas.
RHP Josh DeGraaf provided the Blue Jays with an excellent start against the potent Tampa offense. DeGraaf worked 6.0 innings, giving up just five hits, two runs, and striking out seven.
The Yankees scored their first run in the fourth inning on a solo home run by Gosuke Katoh. The Yankees put two runners on after the home run, but Degraaf settled down and got a pair of flyouts to end the inning.
The Yankees put two runners on again in the fifth, but again DeGraaf escaped, this time using a pair of strike outs.
Tampa pushed across a run in the sixth to cut the score to 5-2. WIth one out, Estevan Florial tripled. A wild pitch that skipped away from catcher Andres Sotillo allowed Florial to score.
Yankees reliever Adonis Rosa confounded the Blue Jays in relief of starter Brian Keller. Keller lasted just 0.2 innings, allowing all five Dunedin runs, before Rosa entered and threw 6.0 shutout innings, striking out seven.
LHP Alonzo Gonzalez entered the game in the seventh in relief of DeGraaf. The first batter he faced, Dalton Blaser, homered to right. After Alexander Palma lined out to left on an acrobatic catch by Jake Thomas, Hoy Jun Park homered to pull Tampa within one run.
LHP Kirby Snead relieved Gonzalez after the second home run and set down the Yankees in order to finish the seventh and in the eighth. Offensively, the Blue Jays continued to struggled against the Tampa bullpen as LHP Trevor Lane recorded all four outs on strikeouts to end the seventh and get through the eighth.
RHP Jackson McClelland entered to try to preserve the 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth. The first batter, Donny Sands, singled. Pinch runner Terrance Robertson, a late addition to Yankees roster, entered for Sands. Robertson advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a wild pitch, and scored the tying run on a single by Kyle Holder that narrowly avoided the glove of a diving 2B Cavan Biggio.
The Blue Jays put the leadoff batter on in the bottom of the ninth, but were unable to score.
McClelland took the mound again in the tenth. With one out, Estevan Florial worked a walk and Tim Lynch followed with a long two-run home run to left field. The following batter was hit by a pitch and came in to score following a walk and two more Yankees hits.
Trailing 8-5, Connor Panas sent another towering fly ball to right field to lead off the bottom of the ninth. This time, however, his drive fell short of the fence and was caught on the warning track. 1B Juan Kelly followed with a single and scored after Edward Olivares was hit by a pitch and Jake Thomas drove him in with a single of his own. With two runners on, Ryan Hissey grounded out to end the game.
The Blue Jays and Yankees will play tomorrow in Tampa to decide the North Division championship and Florida State League co-championship. Game two of the series will begin at 4:00 PM with the Blue Jays needing to win to stay alive. If the Blue Jays win game two, game three would begin soon after at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.