Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
That was… something. You take for granted being able to breathe sometimes, y’know? Because even though the Blue Jays woke up on Sunday morning assured of at least a tie-breaking Game 163 with Detroit, their much preferable path to the playoffs was by way of hosting the Orioles in the Wild Card Play-In Game on Tuesday. And after a nerve-wracking day of baseball, the Blue Jays finally somehow managed to get there. (With a little help from Julio Teheran, Jose Ramirez, and Jim Johnson of the Atlanta Braves, who somehow blanked the Tigers in a must-win game for Detroit — not that it mattered in the end).
Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will take the field at Rogers Centre at least one more time. If they lose, they’ll get the send-off they didn’t receive amid the anguish and frustration of Thursday night. And if they win? Well… then it’s on to face the Rangers, and won’t that be fun as hell?
The winner of that series will get Cleveland or Boston in the ALCS, so there are many subplots that may still unfold as the playoffs move forward, but the big thing is the Blue Jays got there. Or, more accurately, the Blue Jays didn’t fail to get there.
Now they can hit the reset button a little bit. Forget the slog that was September and focus on how they have a perfect October record so far. About how the playoff schedule — with off-days on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday — probably favours exactly their kind of ailing veteran team with a short list of trusted relievers who have been overworked down the stretch. About how just one more win damn win opens up possibilities they’ve surely been salivating for a whole damn year to have in front of them once again.
A lot went wrong for the Jays in September, and kept going wrong over these last two days, too. But even if the results didn’t come, they were hitting the ball hard. They were getting on base. They were getting production from lower in their lineup. The bullpen — shaky as it felt at times — held. The starting pitching was magnificent.
These are not insignificant building blocks from which a winning streak can genuinely grow. There haven’t been many times over the last several weeks where it felt like a winning streak was just around the corner, but that doesn’t mean the ingredients aren’t here. The Jays are 8-5 over their last thirteen games, dating back to the Mariners series. Each of those games had playoff-like significance for both teams involved, and as down and out as we felt at times over that stretch — as much as it felt like everything was slipping away — we all would absolutely take another 8-5 run right now.
The Royals went 9-5 through their first 14 playoff games of 2015, in fact — a record that left them sitting up 2-1 over the Mets in the World Series. It feels so wrong to think that such a joyous, incredible, lucky-as-hell run by Kansas City could have been anything like what the misery us Jays fans feel we have been through over the last two weeks, but it kind of was! And it may not feel like the Jays deserve to be here, but they are here.
There won’t be websites falling all over themselves to snap up clicks with pictures of champagne celebrations in the visiting clubhouse this evening quite the same way as they were last time. There’s still a whole other mountain to climb on Tuesday before we can even see the real mountain yet to climb. But holy shit, we’re here, again, for the second time in just 23 seasons. It may only last a couple days, it may only last a week or so, but it’s still a moment worth basking in and savouring.
It’s a moment worth feeling good about.
And, holy pissballs, Tuesday is going to be so tremendously fucking lit. Now let’s do this!
*Note: I’ll have a full Weekend Wrap post up later on, which will include a fresh episode of Birds All Day — I just thought it was prudent to get this out first. GO JAYS!