One year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays won their final home game of the regular season in dramatic fashion.
The would-be MVP Josh Donaldson delivered the game-winning walk-off home run and was bombarded by his teammates as they ripped the jersey right off of his back. Donaldson stood there basking in the glory. The Jays knew they were going to the postseason.
This year, we’re not so sure.
The final home game of the 2016 regular season was a much more sullen affair. The Blue Jays trailed early and failed to spark a rally or string together any offense all. I’m not sure whether it was so much the Orioles stifling the Blue Jays as it was the Blue Jays stifling themselves.
The final two regular season home games for the Blue Jays were effectively a one-two punch of disappointment and despair. No, it wasn’t enough for the Blue Jays to suffer a late-game loss on Tuesday, they had to be shut down by Ubaldo Jimenez and company on Wednesday, too.
That’s been the mantra of the Blue Jays as of late; “let’s make things way more difficult than they need to be”. They could’ve very easily entered their final series of the season in Boston with nothing on the line, but now everything is on the line for the Blue Jays.
And the odds couldn’t be any more stacked than they already are against the Blue Jays in this particular series. Not only must they face the Red Sox for three games at Fenway Park, they’re sicking their best starters in David Price and Rick Porcello.
Not only that, but the Baltimore Orioles finish their regular season by facing the New York Yankees, and the Detroit Tigers have four more games to play, three or which are versus the Atlanta Braves – the second worst team in the National League.
So yes, the Blue Jays absolutely have an uphill battle during this crucial three-game set against the Boston Red Sox. The odds are not in the Blue Jays’ favour, as they’re the underdogs heading into all three games against the Red Sox (odds via FiveThirtyEight).
One way or another, we will learn whether the Blue Jays are a playoff-worthy team. The 2016 Blue Jays will show their true colours this weekend at Fenway Park. If they can miraculously hold the Red Sox at bay while simultaneously fending off the Orioles and Tigers, then the Blue Jays deserve to advance to the postseason.
If the Jays can overcome these odds this weekend – if they can finally come together against the Red Sox on the final weekend of the regular season – then there’s no telling how for the Blue Jays can go in the playoffs.
But if the Blue Jays keep up this recent display, then they don’t deserve to be there. A team that only managed to total two runs over two games against their closest competitor, will not and should not make the playoffs under these circumstances.
The Blue Jays’ starting rotation has certainly delivered results. The bullpen (albeit with its flaws) hasn’t been demonstratively bad, but the lineup has been.
The Jays’ batting order has scored the second fewest runs in all of baseball in September. Meanwhile, Toronto’s pitching staff kept the team in ball games and amassed an ERA of 3.81, which is good for fifth in the American League this month.
If this is how it goes down, the Blue Jays have nobody to blame but themselves. The Blue Jays picked the worst time of the season for their offense to vanish. Despite a strong starting rotation, it still might not be enough to save the season for the Blue Jays.
At this point, the Blue Jays can’t rely on the Orioles, Tigers or Mariners to lose their games, either. The only certain way to inch closer to the postseason is by winning games; something the Blue Jays have been sporadic about in the month of December.
So here are the Blue Jays with three games in Boston against the newly-crowned AL East champs. If ever there was a litmus test to determine whether the Blue Jays have any chance at all to do some damage … this would be it, against one of the top teams in the American League.
You’d hate to see the Blue Jays roll over again to a divisional opponent, and that would truly be a sad way to conclude the season for the Blue Jays. But if you want to see whether the Blue Jays still have some fight left in them, just watch them this weekend in Boston at Fenway Park.
As John Gibbons said, if the Blue Jays are good enough … they’ll get there.