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Blue Jays drop doubleheader to New York Yankees, Omar Vizquel passes Babe Ruth


Omar Vizquel

Bill Kostroun/the Associated Press Blue Jay Omar Vizquel, 45, connects for a double in the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, passing Babe Ruth in career hits.

NEW YORK—Some stats really stood out Wednesday night, by the time the Blue Jays dropped both ends of a day-night doubleheader against the Yankees.

Omar Vizquel matched and then surpassed Babe Ruth on baseball’s all-time hits list with a single and a double in a 4-2 loss in the day game.

And in the nightcap, Ichiro Suzuki outhit the entire Jays lineup 4-3 as the Yankees completed the sweep with a 2-1 win.

“He’s a hall of famer with a flair for the dramatic, and he did it again tonight,” Jays manager John Farrell said of Suzuki, who capped his brilliant day with a game-winning RBI single in the eighth.

Suzuki actually put in a great double shift, collecting hits in seven of eight trips to the plate over the two games. He also had four stolen bases, and the Yankees seven overall, a steal-fest that underlined the fact Jays pitchers need a bit of polish working with runners on base.

The Jays lineup suffered without Edwin Encarnacion, who missed both games Wednesday nursing a sore big toe. One of the few positives to take out of the day was the six innings of one-run ball tossed by Ricky Romero in the nightcap.

Granted, Romero walked five and allowed seven hits. He was pitching out of trouble every inning, but used a devastating changeup and curve when he needed them to end threats.

“That’s the pitch I don’t think I’ve had all season,” Romero said of his changeup, which helped him strike out Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson back to back on two separate occasions to end innings.

“You’re never happy with the walks, but I felt like they were good walks. I never gave in to hitters and I took risks a lot. . . . I threw breaking pitches with full counts, that’s how much confidence I had in those pitches tonight. I haven’t had that in a while and I think that was a good sign for me.”

Toronto was coming off a Tuesday in which the organization dealt with the Yunel Escobar controversy. The only thing they could celebrate was Vizquel’s history-making performance in the day game.

The 45-year-old infielder, whose professional career spans nearly three decades, gathered the two balls he knocked for base hits Wednesday. They’re headed for a collection of balls and bats he’s been keeping of late to commemorate his climb up the all-time hits list toward Ruth.

“I’ve been collecting the balls. When I passed Harold Baines and some others, I got the ball, I wrote on it who I got the hit off, what situation in the game, so I’d remember it,” Vizquel said.

“I have about eight balls and five bats that have been special to keep. The fact I’m playing my position, I’m playing shortstop at age 45 is very special to me. A lot of hard work and dedication and I feel fortunate and proud of that. I will see now if I can keep collecting in the last two weeks (of the season).”

Vizquel has definite plans to retire after this season. He was asked about the chance of returning for 2013, but he said that is most unlikely.

“In my mind it’s over and I usually don’t change my mind when I make it up like that,” he said.

“Unless there’s a guaranteed contract that I’m on the 25-man roster for next season . . . and I’m not searching for that. It’s been great, this is the greatest job a guy can have. I’ve made a lot of great friends, and very few enemies, and when you have that you can leave with your head and your chest held high.”

Reflecting for a moment, Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner and considered the greatest fielding shortstop of his generation, said the hits are more significant to him.

“I think that it is the hits that is more important to me than the fielding,” he said at his locker.

“I was hitting left-handed until eight months before I made the big leagues and everyone asked how long I could last in the big leagues like that. I proved them wrong, I went to winter ball (after the first year) and came back to the next (spring training) and showed improvement (as a switch hitter).

“I didn’t decide it myself. Bobby Tolan (a coach back when he was with the Indians), he invited me over to learn to hit (switch hit). . . . It was 7 in the morning in instructional league and it was a lot of work, and I started this late in my career. If I would have started earlier, maybe I’d get 3,000 hits by now.”

His retirement will be for real two weeks from now, and Vizquel said he is prepared for what will be an emotional moment.

The Jays’ last game of the season is Oct. 3 against Minnesota.

Vizquel said he faced similar emotions three years ago when he played his final game in winter ball for the Caracas team in his home country.

“I choked up, I couldn’t talk, the players had to hold me and they told me things about our team,” Vizquel said. “So when it comes (in Toronto in two weeks), it’s going to be very special.”

thestar.com – Sports

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