Photo credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Last night’s game in New York was already “officially over” by the time the rain hit. If the weather hadn’t cooperated, they’d have just called it a win for the Yankees, sent everyone home, and we’d all be having very different, very miserable feelings right about now.
When it did start to pour, the Jays were down by five painful runs and hadn’t scored one themselves in fourteen straight innings. The Yankees, a team so many had already written off—including Yankees fans themselves—were suddenly really hard to get out from under. Over two games the Jays offence was freezing cold. Estrada, who has generally been our beloved rock, was giving up home runs in a way that felt like a terrifyingly bad omen. In short, it really sucked.
The Yankees increased their lead to five runs in the bottom of the fourth, and the top of the fifth was made up of a mere five demoralizing pitches to the non-scoring Jays. Two to Darrell Ceciliani, two to Melvin Upton Jr. (who, for what it’s worth managed to get on base,) and one to Ezequiel Carrera. A double play got the last two batters out, everyone started to get drenched, and the day felt just about done. Some Toronto fans turned off their televisions, went for a walk, or went to bed early. After the previous day’s loss, and the AL East standings becoming even more anxiously close, it was all too much for the tenderhearted to bear.
But, as they always say, you can’t predict the weather and you can’t predict ball, and during those 42 soggy minutes of off time, with the tarp on the field and fans taking shelter on the concourse (oddly reminiscent of this double header from last September), the momentum of what was a previously hope-squashing game considerably shifted.
Tulo hit a homerun. Martin hit a homerun. Edwin hit a homerun. Martin hit another homerun. The Jays had a positively giddy eight run eighth inning, marking their season high. Everyone watching from home was delirious, awe-struck, and even a little teary-eyed. I think at one point I let out a burst of near hysterical laughter. The entire comeback-from-nothing-and-destroy-them affair was punctuated by a pretty casual Tepera strike out and a pitcher/catcher back pat, and a glorious 12-6 was the final score on the board.
“Yeah, what a game,” said Gibby in the postgame presser.
I know there isn’t an actual statistic to quantify the feeling of narrative (there should be) but it seems like every time my faith in baseball is shaken a bit, my team provides me with a storied game designed to reel me right back in. We often mock those who have poetic or superstitious perspectives on this pastime, but it’s hard not to be romantic about baseball, hard not to think that last night there really was a message in all that madness. During stressful August times, we are being reminded that anything can and will happen. It was as if it was scripted, and the Jays were giving non-believers the good kick they needed to wake them from their temporary pessimistic misery. And regardless of what happens between now and October, last night was one of those games where you’ll find yourself saying to fellow fans, “remember what happened during that night in New York?” It’ll become shorthand for potential, especially when we’re feeling less than confident about outcomes.
People have a tendency to mock “bandwagoners” for not hanging on through the slumps and painful outings. They say “real fans” stay put until the very last out of the very last game of the very last series—even during the most soul-destroying of seasons. But with all these concepts of true fan loyalty being bandied about, I certainly don’t fault anyone for having their faith shaken and wanting to go into hiding when things go badly. (Like, what was even happening Monday night, guys?)
Bandwagoner or not, baseball can be at times excruciatingly hard to watch, and looking at the top of the AL East standings consistently makes me feel nail-bitingly nauseous. There are three teams who have a real genuine chance of taking the division, something that no other division can really claim. Given how unpredictable baseball can be no one is in a position to get comfortable, and I’m sympathetic to the cynical impulse to emotionally prepare oneself for the worst.
Yet the other side of this coin is, of course, they came back and scored twelve runs. THEY CAME BACK AND SCORED TWELVE RUNS. These are the Blue Jays we remember so fondly from last year, the team that never really seemed like they were losing, the team that never said die, the team that, a year ago this month, came back to win it 12-5 after RA Dickey gave up all those runs in the bottom of the first. This is the “no worries, we got this” team, the one that always assured us it wasn’t “officially over” until it was officially over. The one that, despite all of our anxieties, we cheered for right into October.
Today pitcher JA Happ goes for his 17th win, which would mark his personal best, and further make him the first with that win number this season. I’m definitely all for adding more numbers to that “feeling of narrative” statistic, because even if it’s not real, it’s the very thing that keeps us hopeful, and the very thing that keeps us coming back.