It can never be easy, can it?
Photo credit:© D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
3 months ago
Things were looking up for the Blue Jays as they faced the dreadfully mediocre Oakland Athletics after winning two of three in Colorado.
The Jays squeezed out a 6-5 win on Monday even though they had to eke out most of the runs during extra innings. Subsequently, they handily beat the Athletics by 7-1 on Tuesday. This was the exact script that the Jays had to follow to put themselves back in the Wild Card race, and they did just that. All they needed was one more win on Wednesday to sweep the worst team in baseball.
Yet, nothing comes easily for this team. Starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was solid but allowed a two-run homer that put Oakland in front early. While he only surrendered two runs, the Jays gave up a three-run bomb when relief pitcher Trevor Richards replaced him shortly after. The Jays had to make up four more runs to tie the game but the offence couldn’t spark anything other than Davis Schneider’s solo home run at the top of the eighth inning.
Toronto’s bats looked listless once again. They looked lost at the plate and were pressing throughout the entire game. Luckily, they haven’t been pushed out of the playoff picture because the mighty Houston Astros showcased their offensive prowess against the tumbling Texas Ranger by sweeping the three-game series. (If you think the Jays are disheartening to watch this season, imagine being a Rangers fan who has to witness a dramatic freefall.)
The Jays barely hang onto their playoff spot with a half-game lead which means that the playoff hope can easily evaporate with one misstep. The stakes are high and the Jays have just 22 games to prove that they are a playoff-worthy team. Ideally, they should have swept the Rockies and the Athletics to firmly establish themselves in the playoff picture, but they can’t reverse the past. The only way forward is winning as many games as possible.
This was never supposed to be the plan. By this time, the Jays were supposed to be playing somewhat less stressful games with stellar offence and pitching tearing up the league. But the 2023 Jays showed that they’re the type to grind out every single inning. Offensive explosions were rare but with excellent pitching leading the way, the Jays still won just enough games to assert themselves as a contender.
This would be a great time for the Jays offence to break out and pummel their opponents mercilessly. Maybe they are due for that type of run right about now, but once a team shows what they are all about for more than 100 games, you have to adjust your expectations. The 2023 Blue Jays are the heart attack team, and it’s time to accept them as who they are.
Being a heart attack team is not a fun thing at all. It’s quite the opposite in the sense that it causes endless amount of stress. Call me crazy but this excruciating pain can all be worth it if the Jays’ can grind out every win they can. Who cares if the wins are ugly? A win is a win no matter what, and that’s really the only thing the Jays need for the rest of this month.
The road ahead of the Jays isn’t all that easy. They do face the lowly Kansas City Royals this weekend but let’s not forget that they found a gem in starting pitcher Cole Ragans — if the Jays can muster even one run against this man, that will be a feat on its own. Then they face the Texas Rangers, a series with serious playoff implications, the Boston Red Sox, the now-surging New York Yankees, and the always-pesky Tampa Bay Rays. None of these opponents should be underestimated, and the Jays will have to grind out every at-bat to make it count.
It’s time for the Jays to fully embrace their heart attack brand and make every game frustratingly terrific. They’ve got to make the opponents work hard to earn every single out in the most maddening way if they can’t outslug. They have to find ways to make things work even if it’s not pretty.
Frustration is not just an emotion, it’s a state of mind and a method to the madness. This is the core tenet, the Jays should adopt. This team got punched throughout this season in many different ways. The question is whether they will get back up to strike back.
There’s a reason why the proverb fall seven times and get up eight times exists. The Jays fell 63 times but got back up 77 times. Who says they can’t get back up 22 times? It’s in their hands to decide their own fate.
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