BALTIMORE – It didn’t matter to Austin Hays that the game he was in had absolutely no bearing on the playoff picture.
That was the last thing on his mind as he chased after a soaring line drive that appeared destined to go over the wall.
The Orioles rookie made a highlight-reel grab, one that will be played over and over long after anyone remembers that the Toronto Blue Jays beat Baltimore 8-4 Thursday night.
Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. homered for the Blue Jays, who scored 27 runs in their first three-game sweep at Camden Yards since July 2010.
Hays’ catch — and his enthusiasm in making it — belied the unimportance of a matchup between two teams that long ago dropped out of contention in the AL East.
After Biggio and Gurriel homered off Gabriel Ynoa (1-9) within a span of three pitches in the fourth inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sent a deep drive to centre.
“Once I got closer to the wall, I realized there was a chance that I was going to jump for it,” Hays said.
Hays raced to the warning track, leaped to reach over the 7-foot wall and snagged the ball in the middle of his glove.
“It’s kind of the catch you dream about playing in the backyard, playing Wiffle ball and all that, so that was pretty cool,” Hays said. “That might be the first time since I was in high school that I robbed a home run. Definitely a cool experience.”
Upon returning to the ground, Hays pounded his chest three times in succession and yelled with delight.
“Yeah, it’s just raw emotion,” he said. “You don’t get to do something like that every day.”
Realizing the ball didn’t make it out, Guerrero showed his appreciation for the play by taking off his helmet and waving it in Hays’ direction.
Hays, chomping hard on his gum, lifted his cap over his head and pumped it up and down twice as a way of thanking Guerrero.
Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo wanted the home run, but that didn’t lessen his recognition of a job well done.
“That was an outstanding play by Hays,” Montoyo said. “That would have been cool to watch, three (homers) in a row.”
The night became even more memorable for Hays in the eighth, when he hit his second big league home run. The first came during his previous stint with the Orioles in 2017.
Though denied by Hays earlier, Guerrero hit a two-run double in the pivotal six-run seventh inning after Biggio singled in a pair of runs.
Anthony Kay (1-0) earned his first major league victory by pitching four innings in relief of opener Wilmer Font. Afterward, Kay received what he called a “beer shower” from his teammates.
Trey Mancini had four hits for the Orioles, who have lost four straight and 15 of 19.
Ryan Mountcastle has been named Baltimore’s top minor league player for 2019.
Mountcastle played first base, third base and left field for Triple-A Norfolk. A 2015 first-round pick, the 22-year-old hit .312 with 35 doubles, 25 homers and 83 RBIs as MVP of the International League.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what he looks like next spring,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Right-handers Mike Baumann and Grayson Rodriguez were named the club’s top minor league pitchers.
Blue Jays: SS Bo Bichette was removed for concussion protocol a couple innings after being struck in the left side of his batting helmet by a sixth-inning pitch from Ynoa. … Guerrero was obviously feeling chipper after leaving Wednesday’s game with an apparent rib injury. “Just a little contusion on his side but he’s fine,” Montoyo said. … Gurriel is still recovering from a left quad strain that put him on the IL for more than a month. “He’s not 100 per cent, so I think that’s big for him to learn how to play that way,” Montoyo said.
Orioles: RHP Hunter Harvey was shut down for the season on Wednesday with soreness in his biceps. He made a positive impression in seven games as a reliever with the Orioles, going 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA. “He looked great in that late-inning role,” Hyde said.
Blue Jays: Toronto continues a 22-game stretch against AL East foes at Yankee Stadium on Friday night in the opener a three-game set.
Orioles: Reliever Richard Bleier (3-0, 5.63 ERA) starts off a bullpen game for Baltimore on Friday night against Seattle for the final series of the year at Camden Yards.
© 2019 The Canadian Press