Sunday’s resilient win has Blue Jays off to a solid start as team navigates early-season schedule gauntlet

Photo credit:© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Veronica Chung
3 months ago
It didn’t take long for the Tropicana Field to turn into a house of horror again for the Toronto Blue Jays. All it took was a couple of detrimental defensive errors and listless swings on Toronto’s end for the Tampa Rays to win the games by 8-2 and 5-1 on Friday and Saturday respectively. These awful losses served as a reminder that facing the Rays remains one of the harder tasks for the Blue Jays this season. With one game remaining, Toronto needed to prove its resilience or crumble under pressure – there simply wasn’t a middle ground for the team to prove their worth. 
When shortstop Bo Bichette’s name was scratched from the Blue Jays’ lineup card at the last minute due to his neck spasm, the hope for a possible comeback seemingly diminished. It seemed impossible for this odd lineup to beat Tampa when it featured Davis Schneider as the left fielder, Cavan Biggio as the right fielder, Ernie Clement as the shortstop and Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the second baseman. 
At this point, it was almost better for a team to find solace in the fact that they wouldn’t get swept in Tampa. Just when doubts and cynicism climbed regarding Toronto’s ability to win at the Trop, something magically weird happened. The Blue Jays started aggressively as they challenged opening pitcher Shawn Armstrong from the Rays with a walk and three singles to score two runs. They then capitalized on pitches from another Rays pitcher, Tyler Alexander, and cashed in two more runs to make it 4-1. Toronto took advantage of Alexander’s pitches even more during the top of the fifth when both Justin Turner and Davis Schneider hit a home run and just like that, the Blue Jays scored seven runs in the blink of an eye. 
By the top of the seventh, Toronto also scored two more runs off Rays relief pitcher Jacob Waguespack to make the score 9-1 and eventually split the series in Tampa with the final score of 9-2. Winning the series would have been much better for the Blue Jays, but claiming a series split against the Rays was enough of a win on its own. Historically, even scraping one win at the Trop was notoriously hard for a team like the Blue Jays. There were many different reasons why this was a challenging task through and through, but it was clear that Tampa’s strength and scrappiness were just harder to beat in general. In that context, the Blue Jays’ refusal to lose a series against the Rays was an audacious warning about their relentless pursuit to overcome any obstacles. 
The odds were stacked against Toronto when they started their season on the road. The probability of winning a series in Tampa was very low, to begin with, and it was evident that the Rays figured out the Blue Jays’ weaknesses pretty quickly and maximized their opportunities. For a while, it didn’t seem possible for the Blue Jays to come out of the Trop alive in this agonizing four-game series. Hitting the road without any home game in between is already difficult but Toronto also had the burden of demonstrating their winning way to quell the rising skepticism. 
No one really expected much from this iteration of the Blue Jays as they ended their season on a defeating note with zero playoff wins for the past two years. The team also didn’t bring in any star players to the team either to make a huge difference and created one of the jankier rosters instead as the team brought more utility players. The Blue Jays were a collection of misfits who weren’t projected for much and all hopes seemed to be extinguished around them. 
But there’s nothing scarier than a team that has nothing to lose. On Sunday, the Blue Jays played like a team that wasn’t afraid of anything after going through two ugly losses in a row. By going into the last game of the series at the Trop fearlessly, Toronto effectively put the pressure back on its rival to prove itself while cashing in all the runs. There was no way a team that had a 40-year-old and four utility players could win a game – that wasn’t logically possible in many people’s eyes until the Blue Jays proved them all wrong. 
Isn’t that what makes baseball beautiful to watch? Nothing goes as it should on paper. There’s so much beauty in wild unpredictability that opens a door for anyone to write their own history. The Blue Jays might have hit a bit of a snag but went back to beating its rival handily because they believed in themselves despite the persistent pessimism. 
In the beloved baseball movie Bull Durham, the scrappy Durham Bulls started turning their season around from a horrendous beginning, and the narration over their winning streak montage says the Durham Bulls began playing baseball with joy and verve and poetry. Winning is great and all in baseball but it doesn’t mean much if the players aren’t playing their hearts out on the field. 
What the Blue Jays showed us this weekend was that they can get through any trials together. Yes, there were some lows and mistakes, but they returned to the basics to support each other and play their part. So long as the Blue Jays always play games with joy and verve and poetry, nothing will stand in their way no matter how impossible a situation may seem. 
Heading into Houston for another tough series, Toronto will need more optimism to come out of it alive. But they’ll come out of Houston smiling if they remember why they wanted to run out on the field and play baseball in the first place. No one can beat people who play with grit and joy – now it’s Toronto’s turn to show how scary that mindset can be.


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