The Morning After: The Jays Make Baseball (and the Wild Card Race) Fun Again

A Michael Saunders home run ball lands in Seattle
Screengrab via @sillygwailo

We’re not through it yet. That’s the unfortunate flip side of understanding that in this game things are never as good or as bad as they seem. But boy did that feel good.

The Blue Jays crushed the Mariners on Tuesday night in front of a boisterous, incredible, pro-Jays crowd in Seattle, and everything seemed mostly right with the world again. As in: it felt like 2015. Or it did with one rather key exception: that our attention is now well focussed on the Wild Card. But I think we’ve finally come to grips with that, mostly. The idea of the season coming down to a single game is maybe a little less cruel after coming through a stretch where damn near every pitch felt like a referendum on this team and this season. Especially when, at least for right now, it feels like they might not find themselves backing their way into that scenario. Or out of it.

To feel good about this team again, however fleeting that feeling may be, is a thing to be savoured. To have seen the lineup work the way it’s supposed to work. Hits upon hits piled onto a very good opposing pitcher. Edwin Encarnacion looking like he might be in the early stages of one of those incredible hot streaks of his. Josh Donaldson and his wonky hip managing to drive a ball out of the ballpark (albeit not with the most authority I’ve ever seen, and against some mop up duty scrub — but who the fuck is complaining?).

It is a tremendous relief.

It even allows us to bask a little in how utterly hilarious it is that J.A. Happ won his 20th game of the season in the process, and how genuinely life-affirming it is when all the lemon-sucking pissbabies who were so aghast at that signing and ready to burn the Rogers Centre down are proven so amazingly clueless.

Not that we *actually* care about pitcher wins enough to say that they “prove” anything. But still. It was a good night for those of us who aren’t intellectual cowards ready to disavow the thing they purport to love at the faintest hint that something may not be going precisely the way they demand no matter how thoroughly witless and divorced, either intentionally or through sheer force of stupidity, from reality that may be.

It was a good night for the Blue Jays, too, all things considered. The Red Sox may have won, but that means Baltimore lost, which puts the Jays in the top Wild Card spot for the moment, up a game on the O’s, 2.5 on Detroit, three on Houston, and four on Seattle. They’ll come home to face the Yankees — who probably still believe they’re in it — over the weekend, then Baltimore, before finishing the regular season with a trip to Fenway to face a Red Sox team that, let’s face, may well be resting up a little with the division title already sewn up. That all bodes well. Uh… all things still considered.

That said, let’s not go handing anything to the dumb Red Sox quite yet. I’d do well here to remember my own words from throughout this stretch of awful games before acting like the question of whether the Jays can overtake Boston is academic. The Red Sox look terrifying right now, and quite a bit like the Jays in 2015. But much like the juggernaut we witnessed a year ago, such a well-deserved title hardly makes them unbeatable. Hardly keeps them from being susceptible to the whim of the Baseball Gods or the matters of mere inches that can change this game. And this incredible recent stretch from Boston doesn’t make them only that and not also still the team the Jays were neck-and-neck with (if not better than) for most of five months. Some of the breaks they’ve been getting could stop at any moment. That’s the beauty of baseball.

But yes, as it stands the Red Sox have built themselves a nice little cushion. And while the Jays still stand a chance to reel them in, that it suddenly feels again that they really could is more than enough to let us feel hopeful and breath again. The Wild Card race, which the Jays now fully control, is undoubtedly a consolation prize, but it’s no small one. And given where we were, as a fan base, heading into Monday night, I sure as hell think we should take it and be thrilled.

Now don’t screw it up!