A baseball season is a marathon. It stretches from the end of March to the end of September, 162 regular season games stretched over 180-odd days. For each team, every season is unique, but every season is also similar in that it contains peaks and valleys, ups and downs, hot streaks and cold streaks.
Because of the marathon-like nature of an MLB season, it’s hard to jump to any conclusions about one game. Unlike football, where one game represents a good chunk of the schedule, in baseball a single game represents only 0.6% of a full season. On it’s own, it is relatively meaningless.
Except, of course, when it isn’t.
Last night’s game at the Rogers Centre was quite possibly the most meaningful Blue Jays game in over a decade. For the first time in a long, long time, the Jays find themselves in a battle for first place, and with the Orioles in town a playoff-like atmosphere had descended over the city. Sweep the O’s and Toronto would be just one game back, with all kinds of momentum on their side. The implications were huge.
Faced with that challenge, the team should have been pumped up, adrenaline flowing like a waterfall. Playing in front of a raucous crowd of over 36,000 fans should have provided a huge advantage.
The Blue Jays came out flat. Mark Buehrle was hit hard and the offence was once again stagnant. The way that Baltimore was pounding the ball it very easily could have been four or five nothing after two innings. When the runs finally started crossing the plate, it was not surprising. The Jays also shot themselves in the foot, squandering chance after chance until the deficit was simply too large to overcome.
So how much can you really tell about a team from one game? In last night’s case, the answer is a lot.
There were many fears about this team as the stretch run neared, and last night’s game can almost be seen as a microcosm of everything we were afraid of.
Consider a few:
Q: Can Mark Buehrle really be depended on to come up big when needed, or were his early season numbers a fluke?
A: 4 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 4 ER, 2 HR in his most important start of the season
Q: Is the bullpen too erratic for a contender?
A: Sanchez, Cecil, McGowan, Loup, and Jenkins allowed 5 ER and 5 walks, with McGowan looking particularly ineffective
Q: Is Brett Lawrie simply unlucky, or has he become injury prone?
A: Making his return after a long absence with a broken finger, he played three innings with one at-bat before leaving with back tightness
Q: Is the offence too dependable on the home run?
A: 3 runs scored, 2 on home runs. The inability to come up with key base hits led to 10 runners left on base.
Q: Are there too many all-or-nothing one dimensional players?
A: Juan Francisco – 0 for 4, 3 K. Colby Rasmus – 1 for 4, 2 run HR, 2 K. Anthony Gose – 0 fior 2, 2 K
Q: Will a team that hasn’t been in the heat of a pennant race for so long be able to hold up when the games get tougher?
A: Doesn’t look like it
The above represents a person reading far too much into a single game. But the problem is that the Blue Jays could have appeased many of those fears with a good start last night, and they didn’t. Toronto’s fans are notoriously fickle, and it wasn’t suprising (though definitely inappropriate) to hear some restless boo’s.
But as I stated at the beginning of this piece: baseball is a marathon. The beauty of this game is that, unlike in football, there is a chance to redeem yourself right away.
After all, there’s another game tonight.