Let’s be honest: it wasn’t pretty.
At times, it was downright ugly.
But they did it. The Toronto Blue Jays survived the 162-game marathon and will live to play another game. Yesterday’s 2-1 win over Boston clinched the first wild card birth in the history of the franchise, and ensured a home game against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
Obviously it’s great to be back in the playoffs. There’s no denying that. But perhaps the best part about making the postseason is that we can wipe the slate clean. Everything starts all over again tomorrow. The Cubs are no longer a 103-win juggernaut. They now have zero wins. The Giants are no longer a team that scraped and clawed its way into October. They are now a team on equal footing with nine others.
And most importantly, the Blue Jays are no longer the team that sputtered its way through September with baseball’s worst offense. They are now a playoff team, a team needing 12 more wins to capture the ultimate prize.
Wiping the slate clean is very meaningful for these Jays, simply because there was a lot of dirt to wipe off. Consider that Russell Martin posted a .391 OPS in April, and hit just .161 in September. Consider that Troy Tulowitzki hit .169 in April and was striking out at an alarming rate. Consider that Jose Bautista spent two separate stints on the disabled list, that Marcus Stroman went through a stretch in which he was one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball, and that Toronto continually sent Drew Storen, Jesse Chavez, and Pat Venditte to the mound to get pummeled by opposing hitters.
Yes, there were ugly times.
This Toronto Blue Jays team played some of the most mind-numbingly awful baseball ever seen at times this year. They lost 18 games that they were leading in the seventh inning or later. A lineup stacked with some of baseball’s best hitters scored two runs or fewer 43 times. There were times when they bunted when they shouldn’t. There were times when they didn’t bunt when they should. And of course there was the dismal 11-16, 100 run scored September.
But here’s the thing: they still found a way to make the postseason.
Maybe John Gibbons is right when he said this team might be in better shape for the playoffs than last year’s version. Last year everything seemed to come easy. They were able to crush teams seemingly at will. This year the Blue Jays were forced to grind their way through the schedule, doing anything to push runners across home plate when the bats dried up. Battle tested. That’s what Gibbons called his team, and he’s right.
So despite that awful September, Toronto is back where it belongs: one of ten teams that still has the opportunity to win the World Series.
And despite winning only 11 times in September, the Blue Jays are currently undefeated in October.
Let’s hope the streak continues tomorrow night.