Looking back at the last time the Blue Jays won a playoff game
2 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays are postseason-bound for the third time in four years, clinching the third Wild Card spot on Saturday evening when the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros both won and mathematically eliminated the Seattle Mariners from October baseball.
They’ll be heading out west to face the Minnesota Twins for the three-game set, as they won the AL Central but their 87-75 record was not good enough to secure a bye from the Wild Card rounds. Had the Jays finished in the second spot, they would have had to head down to Florida to face the Rays instead, who just bested the Blue Jays in the last series of the season.
While Toronto has made the postseason again, the club has been without a playoff win dating back to 2016.
In 2020, the Jays dropped two games against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card and suffered the same fate last season at the hands of the Mariners, who clawed back from an 8-1 deficit to win game #2 and eliminate the Jays in their home stadium. It was a devastating loss that really had an impact on the offseason, as the club focused on adding to their pitching staff and focused more on their defence, leading to a few fan favourites being sent packing.
The Toronto Blue Jays last won a postseason game back in the 2016 ALCS series
Looking back in history, the last time the Toronto Blue Jays won a postseason contest was on October 18th, 2016, when they bested the then-called Cleveland Indians in the fourth game of the ALCS. The Jays had dropped the first three games and this win in front of over 49,000 fans at the Rogers Centre staved off their elimination, which lasted just one more game before Cleveland moved on to the World Series.
Managed by John Gibbons, in that game, right-hander Aaron Sanchez made the start and really limited the Cleveland bats, allowing just one earned run through six innings while striking out five batters and walking two. Sanchez was fantastic that season, leading the American League in ERA (3.00) while boasting a 15-2 record and pitching a career-high 192 innings.
Following Sanchez on the mound would be Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli, and Roberto Osuna, with each pitcher throwing a clean inning and both Cecil and Osuna struck out two batters apiece. All three pitchers faced just three batters each inning and overall, the Jays pitching staff that day limited Cleveland to just two hits on the day, one to outfielder Tyler Naquin and the other to catcher Roberto Perez.
The batting order that day featured a bunch of fan favourites, including sluggers José Bautista and Edwin Encarnación while also boasting a red-hot Josh Donaldson at the time, who was fresh off winning the AL MVP the season prior in his first campaign with the Blue Jays.
|José Bautista RF||5||1||0||0||0||1|
|B.J. Upton LF||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Donaldson 3B||3||1||1||1||1||1|
|Edwin Encarnación 1B||4||0||2||2||0||0|
|Troy Tulowitzki SS||3||1||1||0||1||0|
|Russell Martin C||3||0||0||0||1||1|
|Michael Saunders DH||4||0||2||0||0||2|
|Ezequiel Carrera LF-RF||4||1||2||1||0||0|
|Kevin Pillar CF||3||0||0||1||0||1|
|Ryan Goins 2B||3||1||1||0||1||2|
Behind the plate was Canadian Russell Martin while fellow Canuck Michael Saunders was slotting in as the designated hitter. At shortstop was Troy Tulowitzki, who was acquired at the 2015 trade deadline, while internally grown players Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins found themselves at the bottom of the batting order.
Devon Travis hurt himself in the first game of the ALCS and Goins was tasked with replacing him in the lineup. With Saunders in the DH spot, the club used Ezequiel Carrera in the corner outfield spots while switch-hitting Justin Smoak was initially left off the ALCS roster but later added when Travis was ruled out for the rest of the postseason, with Smoak spending this game on the bench. Also on the bench was Melvin Upton Jr., who later entered the game as a defensive replacement for Bautista, while Dioner Navarro, Darwin Barney, and Mississauga, Ont. product Dalton Pompey were also on the roster.
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Blue Jays bats and an excellent Aaron Sanchez outing win the game
For this game, Cleveland sent Corey Kluber to the mound, who finished third in AL Cy Young voting that season and was in the midst of becoming one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, capturing the award the next season.
The two sides were scoreless heading into the third inning until Josh Donaldson belted a solo home run to left field on a 2-2 count, giving the Jays the early 1-0 lead. For those who remember, it was Donaldson who helped the Jays sweep the Rangers in the ALCS after Rougned Odor’s errant throw to first allowed Donaldson to keep running around third and eventually slide in at home to walk off Texas.
The next inning, the Jays capitalized on Kluber starting the inning with two walks with Carrera singling to centre field and scoring Tulowitzki from second base. That would be all that inning, as both Pillar and Goins would strike out swinging. In the top of the fifth inning, Cleveland would get on the board thanks to a walk to Coco Crisp, a wild pitch strikeout to move Crisp to second, and Perez belting a double to left field, making the score 2-1.
Fast forward to the bottom of the seventh and Encarnación would increase the lead to 4-1 by scoring Goins and Bautista off of a single from reliever Bryan Shaw. That lead would increase by one in the eighth inning when a sacrifice fly by Pillar scored Carrera from third base, who lined a triple to right field off of right-hander Mike Clevinger. This would be the final score at the end of the day, as Osuna would come into the ninth inning and hold the fort, keeping the Blue Jays playoff hopes alive.
Looking at this Blue Jays roster, only Pillar and Donaldson have suited up in big league games this season while Bautista, Encarnación, Saunders, Carrera, Tulowitzki, Smoak, Pompey, Upton, and Martin have hung up their cleats for good. Bautista was recently inducted into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence while Encarnación works for the Jays in a hitting advisory role. Pompey is now a police officer in Hamilton while Martin spends his time golfing and working in the seltzer business.
None of the Jays pitchers that day are currently in the big leagues as well, with Cecil and Grilli both no longer pitching while Osuna has pitched in Japan this year. Sanchez started the season in the Twins organization but spent all year in Triple-A until he was released by the club in mid-July. He latched on with the Diamondbacks a few weeks later but was released a month later, spending that time in Triple-A as well.
Rounding out the pitching staff were Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, and J.A. Happ in the rotation while the club also had Francisco Liriano, Aaron Loup, Joe Biagini, and Ryan Tepera in the bullpen. Stroman has carved himself a nice career since his departure from the Jays at the 2019 trade deadline and is now with the Chicago Cubs. Back injuries forced Estrada to retire in 2019 while Happ officially hung it up last season after going unsigned the previous offseason.
Loup has bounced around a few different organizations but spent the 2023 campaign with the Los Angeles Angels, crafting a 6.10 ERA through 55 appearances. Right-hander Ryan Tepera was DFA’d by the Angels earlier this season and split time between the Rangers and Cardinals organizations before being released on July 26th, and is currently a free agent. Biagni last pitched for the Blue Jays organization last season in Triple-A but was released midway through the season. He last pitched from Team Italy at the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Liriano bounced around a few different teams over the years but rejoined the Blue Jays prior to the 2021 season on a MiLB deal. He did not crack the roster and was released (opt-out clause) and retired shortly after.
Looking ahead to the Wild Card series
It has been almost seven years since the Blue Jays last won a playoff game and while that isn’t the longest streak in the Major Leagues, it is certainly one stat the club would like to reverse as they face Minnesota on Tuesday.
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