The Blue Jays are bashing their way to the playoffs:
The Toronto Blue Jays scored 44 runs over the weekend, 22 of which came in a Saturday doubleheader on Sunday. The Orioles are the worst team in baseball, with a record of 46-97. Nonetheless, they ended the Jays’ eight-game winning streak on Friday night by defeating ace Robbie Ray, and they were prepared to play spoiler twice on Saturday, leading 1-0 and carrying a no-hitter into the nightcap’s last inning. Toronto roared back to win both times. The Jays scored 27 runs in four innings between their late-game 11-run outburst and their early-game offensive explosion on Sunday, an MLB record. Toronto is now 11-1 in September and tied for first place in the wild-card standings with Boston.
The race is getting close to the finish line. Toronto is 80-63, tied with Boston at 81-64, and barely ahead of the 79-64 Yankees in winning percentage. Two of those three clubs will be demoted to the single-elimination wild-card game, and one will miss out on the post-season entirely, as Tampa Bay sweeps away with the AL East division lead. Despite three more games against the Orioles and seven against another last-place team in Minnesota, Toronto’s remaining schedule is the most difficult, beginning tonight with a three-game series against the Rays at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays also have three more home games against the Yankees, whom they swept in four consecutive games last week.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, have been about average since July, following a scorching first half. According to FanGraphs, a baseball statistical website, the Red Sox has the highest chance of the three to make the playoffs, with 75.5 percent, followed by 66.4 percent for the Blue Jays and 49.8 percent for the Yankees. Seattle and Oakland are still in the running.
Toronto may win both the American League MVP and the Cy Young Award. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. leads the league in home runs (44), batting average (.319), and on-base percentage (.408), and is five runs behind Chicago’s Jose Abreu in RBIs. With the Jays in contention for the playoffs, a season like this should be enough to earn the MVP. Shohei Ohtani, a two-way superstar who has a 3.36 earned-run average over more than 100 innings in double-duty as a starting pitcher, is tied with Guerrero Jr. in homers. Ohtani appeared to be a shoe-in for the award for months, despite his Angels losing more games than they won.
However, in the second half, the Japanese superstar has cooled off as a hitter (while improving on the mound), allowing the Blue Jays’ youthful slugger to win the award.
Ray and Yankees ace Gerrit Cole are in more direct competition for the Cy Young Award, which is presented to the best pitcher in each league. They both have a similar ERA over a similar number of innings pitched, and advanced statistics don’t help much either. It could all come down to who makes the most noise in the playoff race.
The future seems bright, but the pressure to win is still on. Guerrero Jr. is only 22 years old, while another all-star Bo Bichette is 23, and star outfielder George Springer has a five-year contract, as do some other young players like starter Alek Manoah and catcher Alejandro Kirk. However, although Springer has been hampered by injuries throughout the season, the Blue Jays have been remarkably healthy. Meanwhile, the squad had breakout seasons from everyone on the field, particularly Ray and second baseman Marcus Semien, who was a fringe MVP candidate in his own right.
Unfortunately for Toronto, both players are set to become free agents and will command contracts worth more than $100 million US over numerous years. The franchise, which is owned by Rogers Media, should be able to afford both, but there will be stiff competition on the open market.
Toronto still has nineteen games left on its calendar. That’s more than a quarter of the way through the season, and there’s still plenty of time for those postseason odds to change. However, after a stumbling start to September, the Blue Jays appear to be the team of destiny.