Here we are. Important October baseball in Boston, just as we expected — but nothing like we expected.
This was supposed to be the series. From the beginning of the season when we first looked ahead in the schedule, we knew this series in Boston was going to be the one that mattered the most. Blue Jays and Red Sox. Two contenders. An epic battle for the playoffs.
But instead of duking it out for the American League East crown with the Red Sox on their home turf, the Jays, after a horrific, gut-wrenching, I-want-to-look-away-but-I-just-can’t catastrophe of a September in which they spat out a measly 11-16 record, are now fighting for the second Wild Card seed.
It’s been ugly, and unless the Jays can pull out a win tonight, it’s going to get even worse.
Last night, the Jays were dropped 5-3 in the series opener in Boston. They had a 3-1 lead heading into the seventh inning thanks to a Jose Bautista homer, but the bullpen and a costly error by Russell Martin allowed the Sox to launch themselves into the lead with a four-run inning capped off by a two-run David Ortiz bomb.
The loss was the Jays’ third in a row. That, coupled with Baltimore, Detroit, and Seattle winning three in a row themselves, has put the Jays on the very edge of catastrophe. With two games to go in the season, Toronto is clinging on to the second wild card seed with just a half-game lead on the Tigers.
In a matter of days, the possibility of playing the play-in game at home has nearly disappeared, and the best-case-scenario now involves not having to play a tiebreaker game with Detroit on Tuesday. With the Tigers playing the lowly Braves and the Orioles having an easy time with the Yankees, the Jays really need to take matters into their own hands in order to secure some kind of playoff position.
Winning the next two games would force the Tigers to need to win their remaining three games to earn a tie and force a 163rd game in the season, and it would knock the Mariners out of contention. Winning one of the next two means, depending on what Detroit and Seattle do, the Jays could be on the outside looking in. And, obviously, lose these next two, and all hell breaks loose. Here are all of the scenarios.
So just fucking win already!
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis, 3B Josh Donaldson, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, DH Jose Bautista, C Russell Martin, SS Troy Tulowitzki, RF Melvin Upton, CF Kevin Pillar, LF Zeke Carrera
J.A. Happ: 20-4, 3.20 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 1.161 WHIP, 7.8 H9, 2.6 BB9, 7.7 SO9
Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, SS Xander Bogaerts, DH David Ortiz, RF Mookie Betts, 1B Hanley Ramirez, LF Chris Young, CF Jackie Bradley, 3B Aaron Hill, C Christian Vasquez
Eduardo Rodriguez: 3-7, 4.68 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 1.284 WHIP, 8.5 H9, 3.1 BB9, 8.0 SO9
The Jays are sending Cy Young candidate J.A. Happ to the mound in search of his 21st win of the season, which would be a franchise record for a lefty. The Sox are countering with Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s had a difficult sophomore season, as his walk rates have increased while his strikeout rates have decreased since his memorable rookie year.
So it’s definitely a favourable matchup for the Jays, but with the way their bats have been going recently, and how shaky their bullpen has been, nothing is anything close to a given at this point.
Like I said before: Just win. Win the game and it doesn’t matter so much what Seattle or Detroit is doing. Lose this game and fuck, we’ll be heading into the final day of the season potentially half a game out of the wild card.