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Marcus Stroman double sets up Toronto Blue Jays for 11-inning win over St. Louis Cardinals

By
Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman rounds first base after hitting a double in the 11th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on April 25, 2017. The hit was Stroman's first big league hit as Toronto defeated St. Louis 6-5. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman rounds first base after hitting a double in the 11th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on April 25, 2017. The hit was Stroman's first big league hit as Toronto defeated St. Louis 6-5. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Coghlan called it instinct.

His Toronto Blue Jays teammates called it unbelievable.

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Coghlan's unexpected leap over St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina to score the tie-breaking run in the top of the seventh inning Tuesday night might not have been the deciding play in Toronto's 6-5, 11-inning win, but it was the play everyone wanted to talk about afterward.

Even St. Louis first baseman Jose Martinez, who clouted his first big league homer to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh, admired Coghlan's surprising hang time.

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"That was just crazy," Martinez said. "It was impressive. Everybody had the same look on their face like, 'This is unbelievable.' He jumped over Yadi and landed exactly on home plate. It was unbelievable."

With the game even at 2-2, Coghlan drew a one-out walk from Matt Bowman. Kevin Pillar followed by tripling over the head of right fielder Stephen Piscotty, setting the highlight reel in motion.

Rounding third, Coghlan saw that Piscotty's strong throw was going to beat him. Molina bent down to catch the ball and Coghlan made a last-second decision.

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"Since he was down," he said of Molina, "I thought I would jump."

And jump Coghlan did, clearing Molina and landing on the back of the plate with his head to deliver the lead.

"I felt a little bit like Willie Mays Hayes," said Coghlan, referring to the character played by Wesley Snipes in the movie Major League.

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"It was like seeing a unicorn," Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada said. "I might never see that again. We needed that."

Still, Toronto (6-14) wasn't home free by any means.

Martinez's two-run homer in the Cardinals' half of the seventh erased a two-run advantage, and Jose Bautista's RBI single in the top of the ninth was matched by Dexter Fowler's two-out run-scoring infield hit in the bottom of the inning.

Needing another hero, the Blue Jays again dipped deep into their roster and pulled out pitcher Marcus Stroman. Batting for reliever Jason Grilli (1-2) because Toronto was out of position players, Stroman laced a one-out double off Miguel Socolovich (0-1) with one out in the top of the 11th.

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One out later, Steve Pearce slashed a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Aledmys Diaz made a tumbling stop, but his throw bounced wide of Martinez at first and Stroman scored the winning run on St. Louis' fourth error of the night.

It was the first hit in five MLB at-bats for Stroman.

"He's been talking the last two or three weeks that he wants to hit," joked Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "I told him you never know, but don't count on it. Then he got a chance and hooked a breaking ball down the line."

Ryan Tepera made that run stand up, retiring Martinez on a fly ball that required a sliding grab from Pillar in left-center to strand Randal Grichuk at second to end the 3-hour, 46-minute contest.

"We've been riding an emotional roller-coaster, so this was a big win for us," Gibbons said. "It's been a rough start for us, but the guys have showed up and played hard every night."

The Cardinals (9-11) lost for just the second time in eight games despite three hits and an RBI from Jedd Gyorko, as well as another solid start from Michael Wacha. He lasted six innings, allowing five hits and two runs with a walk and six strikeouts.

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Estrada, who entered the game 0-5 with a 5.10 earned run average in his career against St. Louis, matched Wacha's six innings. Estrada gave up six hits and two runs, walking one and whiffing nine.

After the starters left, it came down to the bullpens, Coghlan's leap of faith and an unexpected contribution with the bat from a pitcher who rarely hits.

"It was a crazy game, an awesome game to watch," Estrada said.

NOTES: St. Louis 1B Matt Carpenter served a one-game suspension Tuesday night after his ejection from Sunday's 6-4 win in Milwaukee. Carpenter made contact with home plate umpire John Tumpane, who also booted manager Mike Matheny. ... Toronto activated LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder) from the 10-day DL and optioned RHP Leonel Campos to Triple-A Buffalo. Howell fanned five in two innings during a rehab stint at Single-A Dunedin. ... The Blue Jays started C Russell Martin at 3B, his first start there since joining the team last year and his 20th career game at third.

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