This past Wednesday, the Toronto Blue Jays were officially eliminated from the MLB postseason, less than one week after clinching their spot in a 4-1 win over the New York Yankees. They say life comes at you fast, but it comes at you even faster when you’re matched up against baseball’s second-best regular season team.
The Jays (32-28) were certainly the underdogs going into the best-of-three series against the Tampa Bay Rays (40-20), who led the American League in wins and trailed only the NL’s Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17) in the MLB standings. However, with their potent lineup boasting budding stars and good depth pieces, some wagered that Toronto might be able to complete the upset with solid pitching performances from their starters.
Unfortunately, Toronto’s offense dried up completely against Tampa’s stingy rotation, managing to plate just three runs in two games. Regardless of your pitching, that kind of offensive outing just isn’t going to win you many games in the postseason. However, their pitching didn’t do them many favours either.
Manager Charlie Montoyo raised some eyebrows ahead of the series when he announced the Blue Jays’ starting rotation for the three-game series in the order of Matt Shoemaker, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Taijuan Walker. The more plausible order might’ve included the same three pitchers, but with Shoemaker potentially book-ending the series with an abbreviated start in game three before moving to the bullpen, but the move made sense from an underdog point of view in which they hoped to get lucky in game one and close the series out in games two or three with their top aces.
In the end, it was a moot point as the team lost back-to-back games en route to elimination. Shoemaker actually fared quite well in the opener, throwing three scoreless innings before the decision was made to replace him with newly acquired Robbie Ray as a mid-reliever. Ray also pitched rather well, allowing just one run and punching five batters out along the way in his 3.0 IP. However, the Blue Jays just couldn’t muster up the run-support and lost the game 3-1.
Game two was meant to be a statement game for the Blue Jays, fighting to stay alive while hoping to bounce back offensively with their top pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu on the mound. Once again, the offense struggled mightily while Ryu tossed an inopportune stinker of a game, allowing seven runs (three earned) in just 1.2 IP.
Ryu would be pegged with the loss in what turned out to be a bullpen game as the Jays once again ran into good pitching on the other end and ended their season with an 8-2 loss.
On the bright side for Toronto, this team is still young and the core is developing ahead of schedule, so playoffs are likely in this team’s not too distant future again. However, the MLB likely won’t return to its expanded 16-team COVID-special postseason format next season, meaning there will be three less spots up for grabs in the American League and a more grueling 162-game schedule should things resume back to ‘normal’.
As Canadian sports teams have grown accustomed to saying, there’s always next year.