Over the next few days, we’ll be taking a look back at the year that was for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Spring training was fun and all, and it was good to see the Blue Jays back out on the field competing again after the lockout. To make things even more exciting, the city of Toronto was able to witness an opening night at the Rogers Center for the first time since 2019.
A wild opening night comeback
Opening night was a rollercoaster, to say the least. The vibes of the fanbase were about as positive as they could be — a World Series-contending roster was about to take the field with the highest expectations since the ’15 and ’16 playoff teams.
Let’s start with Jose Berrios, the opening night starter. Oof, talk about a performance that served as a harbinger of things to come. Berrios allowed a leadoff home run to Brad Miller, and it only went downhill from there. Berrios recorded only one out before being pulled from the game, after he allowed three hits, four runs, and two walks, serving him up an ERA of 108.00.
Tayler Saucedo and Trent Thornton combined to allow three more runs in relief, and Texas built a 7-0 lead. But, if there’s one thing we know about the Rangers, it’s that they’re the Rangers. They’re built to blow a lead like that, and we also know that they have never won a World Series. The vibes throughout the stadium were too good for the Blue Jays to bow down and take an opening night drubbing.
With the help of Toronto’s 2-3-4 hitters (Bichette, Guerrero Jr., Hernandez), the Blue Jays mounted a monster comeback. By way of a couple of RBI singles, a sac fly, and an RBU groundout, Toronto played some “small ball” to cut Texas’ lead down to three. This set the stage for Teoscar Hernandez, who slammed a three-run home run into the right field seats in the 5th inning to tie the game at 7-7.
Looking back at it now, it was such a statement home run for a guy who hit many during his time as a Blue Jay.
A couple more (figurative) punches were exchanged between the two, but Toronto went on to win 10-8, with Jordan Romano earning his first of 36 saves on the season. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Hernandez combined to go 5-for-10 with six runs and five RBIs.
Vladdy and Alek Manoah set the stage in the Bronx
Following their series win over Texas, the Blue Jays headed to New York to face the Yankees in a four-game series. Although they split the series, the Blue Jays had stellar individual performances from two of their younger stars.
Alek Manoah led off the series making his 2022 debut. Manoah threw six shutout innings, only allowing one hit. He walked four, but also struck out seven, pushing the Blue Jays to a 3-0 victory. Manoah had only thrown 89 pitches, so had this game come later in the season, there would be little doubt that he’d be back out for the seventh.
In that same game, George Springer was responsible for all three of Toronto’s runs; Springer launched a two-run home run off of Jameson Taillon in the 3rd inning, as well as an RBI double in the seventh. The best part of Springer’s night was doing this amidst several thousand Yankee Stadium boos, as fans were showing that they were still sour over Springer being a member of the 2017 Houston Astros.
Two games later, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. posted a 4-for-4 night, including three home runs. Guerrero Jr.’s final three hits came to be more impressive considering his right hand was stepped on in the 2nd inning by Aaron Hicks.
Guerrero Jr. had three hits against Gerrit Cole, who even tipped his cap to Vladdy out of respect after he slapped a double down the right field line on a pitch low and away. Guerrero Jr.’s performance earned him a spot on the sports cover of the New York Post, with the headline “Who’s Your Vladdy?”
A decent start, but overshadowed by the Yankees
Through April and most of May, the Blue Jays were taking care of business on their side, winning the majority of their series. However, it wasn’t in the bulldozing fashion that we had seen a lot of in the 2021 season. 15 of their first 30 wins of the season were by only one run, and due to the large batch of high-leverage situations, Romano was being asked to do a lot of work.
Romano came through in many of those opportunities, and the offense was able to find late heroics, seemingly from someone different every time.
- April 22nd at Houston: Matt Chapman’s RBI double scored Guerrero Jr. in the 9th inning, handing Toronto a 4-3 win.
- April 25th vs. Boston: Bo Bichette broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 8th with his first career grand slam.
- April 26th vs. Boston: George Springer tied the game at 5 in the 9th inning with a two-run home run. Although the game would go to a 10th inning, Raimel Tapia would walk the game off with a game-ending sacrifice fly.
- May 1st vs. Houston: Framber Valdez had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning until Bichette connected on a two-run home run to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead. After Houston evened the game at 2, Santiago Espinal’s RBI single put Toronto back in front in the 7th. The highlight of the day was Springer’s spectacular catch on an almost sure double from Alex Bregman in the 9th inning, preventing Houston from tying the game.
Through 60 games, the Blue Jays were 36-24 including going 4-2 over the eventual World Series champs, the Astros. While it’s far from bad, the Yankees were in the middle of placing themselves among the game’s elite, spearheaded by Aaron Judge. Through 60 games, the Yankees were 44-16, already eight games over the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays were getting the job done just enough, but once again, there weren’t any stretches of games in which the Blue Jays felt like the team had hit their peak.
Toronto could hardly get both sides of the ball to click at the same time; if the rotation/bullpen were nailing things down, the offense was scoring 2-3 runs a game. If the offense did happen to flourish, the pitching couldn’t keep things lopsided. Staying on the pitching side, the Blue Jays fell victim to having a top-heavy rotation. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman prospered, while Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi were providing inconsistent starts at an alarming rate.
They finally caught fire at the end of May, as the Blue Jays went on an eight-game winning streak, including sweeping the Angels and the White Sox.