The Jays lose a thriller in the Bronx (but don’t worry, it’s early)

Brett Gardner
Photo credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays and the New York Yankees played a terrifically entertaining game of baseball Tuesday night in the Bronx. The result certainly wasn’t what us Jays fans wanted, and it was frustrating as hell, but a single sporting event can pretty easily be all those things. It was hardly a waste of time.

The Blue Jays should have won it before Tyler Austin’s go-ahead home run off of Aaron Sanchez in the bottom of the seventh. They definitely should have won it after Kevin Pillar’s eighth inning double gave them the lead again. And holy shit, they were inches away from wresting it back in the top of the ninth thanks to a Justin Smoak blast that fell just short and managed not to pop out of the glove of Brett Gardner, who seemed surprised he had managed to even get to the ball.

It was heart-in-throat stuff, and exactly the kind of thrill ride we’ve signed up for, and are destined to see more of as the tight race for the AL East heads down to the wire. It just sucks that it didn’t have to be that way.

The Jays worked their way back from 7-4 down to make it 7-6, with the bases loaded, Dellin Betances out of the game — in no small part thanks to an epic Edwin Encarnacion at-bat that ended in an infield hit — and Smoak at the plate. Before that, though, a whole lot happened, and not all of it great. Kevin Pillar maybe didn’t get the best read on the Didi Gregorius triple that scored the tying run in the bottom of the eighth, though it’s hard to blame such a tremendous fielder for not making what would have been an awfully difficult play — if it was indeed even makeable. And Jason Grilli having his second blow-up in his last three appearances sure hurt, but it’s hard to get concerned just yet with the guy who, heading into the first of those three appearances, was coming off 18 spectacular appearances, in which he allowed just one run over 18 innings (0.50 ERA), with 22 strikeouts, five hits and five walks (0.56 WHIP).

It hurts.

Couple it with the loss on Monday and the two in Tampa over the weekend and… well… the fucking clown-shows sure took the opportunity to stay crawled out from under their rocks.

Fortunately their bullshit doesn’t really stick so well to this one.

Did the Jays play with no heart when they fought back from the hole they had dug themselves against one of the best relievers in the game and forced Gardner to use every inch of the ballpark to make the final out? Does anybody even half serious pretend to see deep and damning fissures in an offence that just scored six runs and ran into some bad batted ball luck that could have made it more? Do we worry about impending doom just because they happen to be 1-4 since the calendar flipped to September, as though that means anything?

Let’s be fucking serious. Nothing of what is going on with the Blue Jays right now constitutes a crisis — not by a long shot.

Baseball is a frustrating enough game in its own right, and fans make it all the more frustrating for themselves when they play the follies game of trying to make grand extrapolations from tiny samples of the most utterly demoralizing moments of the season. The reality is that the Jays hit almost exactly as well with runners in scoring position as they do overall, meaning that they’re one of the top offences in the game. And Jays relievers, by fWAR, are in a big tie as the fifth most valuable crew since the All-Star break, ranking second in baseball in bullpen Win Probability Added (WPA) over that span, as well as producing the second-most shutdown innings among AL teams, and the third-fewest meltdowns — at least heading into Tuesday night.

You really can’t ask a whole lot more of Smoak, who at least actually put the ball in play in both of his crucial at-bats, but because the ball didn’t quite leave the yard, because he grounded into a double play to snuff out an earlier threat, and because he’s Justin Smoak, fans surely will.

You can’t ask much more of an offence that eventually put six runs on the board, but fans will.

You can’t ask more of Jason Grilli for all he’s done for this team this season, but fans will probably do that too.

They’re fans. I get it. And they’ve just been watching a backup-calibre first baseman who has once again found his name in the starting lineup. And another outstanding start from Aaron Sanchez turned sour because of a tough-to-swallow late inning home run — one that they can’t even give him grief for because of the tiny margin for error he was afforded at the time by the offence. And a reliever who is supposed to lock down the eighth inning and give way to Roberto Osuna closing it out coughing up a lead for the second time in a week.

It’s just… this is kinda exactly what baseball is. The offence and the defence and the bullpen and the starter all operate more-or-less independently of one another, and there are going to be a whole lot of days when their successes don’t all line up and can’t overcome the failures of their counterparts. And as much as some fans have the impossible expectation that a good team will always put its dominance on display, the fact is there’s nobody in the big leagues who can’t throw a ball past your best batter or fool him with a good pitch into a weak swing, and nobody in the big leagues that can’t get his bat on just about anything your best pitcher can throw at him, as long as he sees it well, his timing is right, and he executes his swing. All of that adds up to the fact that good teams lose a lot — not because they’re wilting and not because they’re weak-willed, but because it’s baseball.

It’s why you don’t redefine what a team is every few games.

And it’s why every bloody year in April and May and June, through the cackles of utter doomsaying morons, people who have some concept of the ebb and flow of a baseball season will remind you “it’s early.” Even as lemon-sucking dipshits explode around us with vitriol and sarcasm about the phrase, as shit-heels so afraid to let go and enjoy the ride that they’d rather try to preemptively be right in the most negative way possible about the club they follow get angrier and angrier at its utterance, the fact then remains that it’s early.

And right now, as far as this phase of race goes, it’s early, too.

Accept it, you CHUDs!

The Jays might not make the playoffs, but it won’t be because something is so badly and obviously wrong that you can already smell it. They’re not a perfect team, but they have a lot that works — just maybe not every night. It *can’t* work every night. The game is simply not like that. It’s a game of failure; a game where fans’ cries of they *can’t* do *that* and be good, or they *can’t* let that happen are just… wrong. Stuff happens. Baseball isn’t all luck, but the difference between success and failure can be a matter of inches, and you can do everything right, or close to it, and still come up wanting.

If these Blue Jays do fail, and if it all goes sideways it will be because they’re in a tough fight with strong opponents, and basically because things didn’t go their way. If it happens, maybe then we can comb through the wreckage of the season to try to be more precise about the club’s failings and how best to avoid them in the future. But to act like they’re already doomed or sliding out of the picture, or even in the slightest bit of trouble compared to where they’ve been all season long, is to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the sport actually works.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

Now let’s win some goddamn games, eh?