After taking care of business against AL East basement teams, the Blue Jays will face a stiffer challenge
Photo credit:© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
It wasn’t long ago when the Blue Jays did the improbable.
They got themselves back into the playoff conversation by successfully sweeping the Boston Red Sox last weekend in a questionably convincing fashion. They also got help from the out-of-town scoreboard when the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners faltered.
The only teams the Jays now face for the rest of this season are the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Yankees may not be the juggernaut they once were, they are still not to be underestimated with Gerrit Cole leading the way. The Rays, well, we all know what to expect from them now: a team with an endless number of no-name players who optimally contribute to consistently torturing their opponents.
It’s not the easiest road for the Jays to finish their season and it’s most likely that they will play right down to the last day to see what their playoff fate is. The good news is that the Jays got their job done in Brooklyn for the first portion of this daunting stretch. The Jays’ offence got to Yankees’ starting pitcher Clarke Schmidt and drew a 7-1 victory for the first game while taking advantage of the shaky Yankee bullpen for the second game by squeezing out a 6-1 win that was tighter than the score suggests.
A sweep to end the Brooklyn road trip would have been stellar, but Yankees’ bona fide ace Gerrit Cole had other plans. As a front-runner of the American League Cy Young race, Cole got down to business and established his dominance as the Jays’ offence flailed. Unfortunately, the Jays didn’t help themselves when starting pitcher Jose Berrios gave up a three-run homer to Yankees’ outfielder Jake Bauers in the first inning. The Yankees solidified their victory narrative early on and eventually beat the Jays by 5-3.
There was no expectation for the Jays to win against Gerrit Cole. After all, Cy Young was his to lose, and Cole wasn’t going to let his superb season slip all that easily. However, as the Jays winning streak ended at five games, it resurfaced the question of powerless offence. How can this team make it to the postseason and win playoff games if they can’t muster up any runs against even an ounce of good pitching?
The Jays have definitely lit up great pitchers from time to time during the regular season but their whole M.O. this season has been flawless pitching, air-tight defence and barely enough offence, with barely being the keyword there. It’s no secret that outstanding pitching has mostly carried the Jays to their 85-68 record, and their bats never clicked all throughout the lineup the whole season. Such has been the Jays’ conundrum.
The Jays now share the same record as the Houston Astros while being only half a game up on the Rangers and Mariners. With just nine games left in the regular season, the Jays are still in the thick of the most challenging portion of their schedule. This is nothing new for this team; they are used to grinding out for wins rather than breezing through by mercilessly beating up their opponents.
As the Jays head to the Tropicana Field to face the Rays, the Jays will have to bring their grit with them to overtake the house of horrors. As sleepy as this team looked at times, they have also been amazingly resilient all throughout this season. Just when you thought the Jays’ season was over, they’ve proven time and time again that they have the ability to get back up.
Besides, if there’s one defining trait of their season, it’s been their maddening consistency according to Baseball Reference’s month-over-month win-loss split, Aside from May, the Jays have produced a winning record every single month. To fans’ eyes, they have been nothing but inconsistent, but their persistence has defied that eye test with the team’s virtually bulletproof pitching and defence leading the way.
What’s even more mind-boggling is that the Jays have a decent record in one-run games and extra-inning games. While extra innings have been somewhat of a grind, their 25-19 one-run game records clearly indicate that this team does have the “dawg” in them when they need it the most. No matter how unconvincing their wins may look, they just keep coming back. Keep in mind, the Jays still have an 82.8% chance to enter the postseason and a 3.6% chance to win the World Series. Those aren’t the worst odds for the team with the third-best record in the American League even if it may not feel like it at times.
It’s always incredibly hard to envision the Jays having a good time in St. Petersburg, especially with the Rays calling up their rookie sensation Junior Caminero (Note to every team: Never trade with the Rays because they will win all the time) and pencilling in their ace Tyler Glasnow. But if there has been any calling card the Jays could rely on, it’s been their unwavering resilience. This is the time for the Jays to finally display what they are capable of, and how scary their tenacity can be.
The Jays still have control of their narrative – it’s up to them as to how they want to finish the story. They can either fumble and flop or they can choose to churn out wins no matter how ugly they are. This hasn’t been the prettiest of the season for the Jays and it’s certainly been far from their finest hour. But who’s to say they can’t pull off a little miracle?
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