The Blue Jays Are Battle Tested Now
Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
All the Blue Jays needed was one more win. One more win and they could clinch the playoffs while letting chaos happen to everyone else. It wasn’t an insurmountable task or at least it didn’t seem like one until the Jays started their 161st game of the season.
In 2023 Blue Jays fashion, they fell behind early, came back, and fell behind again when reliever Trevor Richards gave up a two-run home run to Rays’ designated hitter Harold Ramírez. If this were the 2021 Blue Jays, they could have come back with a walk-off home run, but that’s not how this year’s version of the team does things. Instead, the Jays gave up three more runs and lost to the Rays with a score of 7-4. It was another agonizing loss and their playoff fate was out of their hands at least for the rest of the day.
But the thing about the 2023 Blue Jays season is that things somehow tend to work out for them in mysterious ways. That night, the Seattle Mariners lost to the Texas Rangers while the Houston Astros beat the Arizona Diamondbacks. This conveniently locked the Blue Jays in a playoff spot while eliminating the Mariners altogether. The Jays were in the playoffs after a long grind.
They could finally play the meaningless 162nd game as they hoped and let the Rays happily pummel them 12-8 while they strategized for their next potential playoff matchup. No matter what the results of game 162 were and how the regular season played out, what mattered the most was the fact the Jays were getting another chance at redemption.
Going into the American League Wild Card series today against the Minnesota Twins, the champions of the Central Division, the Jays have a lot to prove. They haven’t won a playoff game for seven years and got swept by their opponents in both 2020 and 2022. While most fans and pundits have favoured the Blue Jays to win based on their talent level, the Twins are also a formidable opponent with a lot to prove. With 18 straight playoff losses on their back, the Twins want nothing more than a flip of the coin to change their fortune. This will be nothing but a tense and wild series given that the Twins also have plenty of talent and drive to make it through.
The Jays have experienced hundreds of ups and downs this season. Nothing came easily for them for 162 games. It was a grind after a grind for the Jays as they played in the toughest division in MLB. Adversity was practically their best friend all throughout this grimy season. It may not have felt like it but the Jays overcame their struggles and ensured to come out on top month after month.
They are nothing like the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers who defied the expectations and handily won 100+ games nor are they like the Atlanta Braves who quickly established themselves as MLB’s juggernaut with 104 wins. You can argue that the Jays basically limped their way into the playoffs, unlike the glorious entrances of other overpowering teams.
But what if the adversity is what makes the difference? The 2019 Washington Nationals were always counted out until they weren’t and the 2022 Phillies went on an absolute tear. These teams weren’t the favourite to go on a successful October run, but they did it anyway. Who’s to say that the Jays aren’t capable of that?
In a conversation with Sportsnet reporter Hazel Mae, first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said the Jays players all believe in each other and utility man Cavan Biggio backed it up by reinforcing that this team is special. They’re right- this is one heck of a gritty team that had to navigate through countless hurdles. They’ve seen the best of times and worst of times. They know what playoff agony feels like and if there’s any calling card they have, it’s “unbelievable perseverance” just like Jays manager John Schneider said.
Even through some rough patches, there were some silver linings for the Jays. Shortstop Bo Bichette has dazzled the fanbase with his sharp defence and outstanding batting results; first baseman and self-called MVP Brandon Belt started heating up at the plate after he came back from his injury; Cavan Biggio’s bat and stellar defence came alive; and Daulton Varsho’s batting also improved massively to close out the 2023 regular season. There’s a lot the Jays can bank on and these performances showed a glimpse of what this team’s true potentials are.
The Jays are built to weather through highs and lows no matter how challenging they are. If there’s any time for this team to show their resilience, this is it. Whether they’ll rise to the occasion or crumble at the first sign of trouble, it’ll be up to them. May the odds be with them and may they always get the next man up to get the job done.
Recent articles from Veronica Chung