At this moment, the Toronto Blue Jays are tied for third in the American League East. They’ve spent virtually the entire season in dead last, but after taking three of four this week from the Tampa Bay Rays, they’ve made a pretty major climb up the ladder. They’re also only three games out of the second wild card position.
Say what you want about having to jump all these teams and the three-game deficit being an illusion because of it, but what the Jays have done, hanging together by a goddamn thread, has been incredible. They’ve managed to piece it together with players we never expected to see anywhere near the big league roster and are bringing the fans competitive and meaningful baseball down the stretch.
On Monday, Nick Tepesch managed to navigate through six innings, holding Tampa Bay to just one run. Josh Donaldson hit a two-run bomb in the first inning, and that’s all the Jays would need to squeeze by. 2-1 Blue Jays.
On Tuesday, Marco Estrada had a rough time with Tampa’s lineup, like he has on multiple occasions this season. Josh Donaldson was able to solve Blake Snell with a three-run bomb, but the Jays weren’t able to claw back against Tampa’s bullpen. 6-4 Rays.
On Wednesday, Marcus Stroman put together yet another strong start and the bullpen slammed the door. The bats didn’t get much going, but the pitching was excellent, shutting Tampa down to just two runs. 3-2 Blue Jays.
On Thursday, Chris Rowley made his second career start, navigating out of trouble to hold the Rays to one run over five innings. The Rays tied the game in the top of the eighth, but Justin Smoak answered back with a two-run bomb immediately after. 5-3 Blue Jays.
TFW Josh Donaldson plays on your team pic.twitter.com/OHd7rpMlOQ— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) August 17, 2017
Things that were good
- Josh Donaldson. Josh fucking Donaldson, the MVP. He’s going to drag this goddamn team kicking and screaming to the playoffs, I tell ya. For the series, Donaldson went 8-for-13 and clubbed four home runs, damn near singlehandedly producing all of Toronto’s offence for the series. His first-inning bomb on Monday was all they needed, he pulled them back into the game on Tuesday, and his two bombs on Thursday accounted for most of the offence in the finale. For the season, Donaldson now has a very MVP-esque .940 OPS, and his cold month of July is so far in the rearview mirror we’ll probably just forget it ever happened.
- Chris Rowley and Nick Tepesch both deserve some love for strong starts this week. Tepesch, a journeyman trying to keep his big league career alive, got roughed up by the Yankees in his first appearance, but pulled it together for a gutsy start on Monday. And Rowley, who likely never expected to be here, is turning himself from a feel good story into a ‘holy shit this guy is actually good’ story.
- The bullpen has been heavily taxed all season as the rotation has been in constant flux, but they’ve played a major role in keeping the season alive. Roberto Osuna was nails in all three of his saves this week, especially Monday in which he recorded four outs. Danny Barnes came in with the bases loaded and nobody out on Thursday and managed to limit the damage to just one run, Aaron Loup managed to get five outs on Monday, and Tim Mayza has looked excellent through his first two appearances.
- Damn, all in all, that was a good, gritty series. Like I said earlier, the team has been decimated by injuries and is piecing things together one day at a time with a roster nowhere near its ideal composition, but they’re still alive.
Things that weren’t good
- I mean, obviously there were things that weren’t good this series. It was far from perfect, but what the hell do you expect from a roster featuring Nick Tepesch, Raffy Lopez, and half of the opening day group on the disabled list? Marco Estrada had a rough start, there were some ugly at bats, bad defence (from Rob Refsnyder in particular, woof), but there really aren’t any expectations. The team isn’t good, but they’re somehow still alive, and that’s fantastic. Let’s enjoy it.
The Jays will head to Chicago for three games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field this weekend. They haven’t played there since 2005, so that’ll be a cool thing to watch. It’ll also be Miguel Montero’s first chance to play his old club. You know, the one he was released from for being a bad teammate and all that.
After Chicago, the Jays will go to Tampa Bay for another very, very crucial three-game series, then they’ll host the Twins, another team ahead of them in the wild card race, for three games at Rogers Centre.