Despite all the challenges and risks, the first finish line arrived on Sunday with the end of the regular season and the Blue Jays are among the 16 teams that continue to chase the second. A 7-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles capped a 32-28 campaign and locked them in the eighth seed and a first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The game is an intriguing game given manager Charlie Montoyo’s long history with the Rays, the Blue Jays ‘aspirations to emulate the Rays’ effectiveness and a 10-game streak with a cumulative score of 48-44.
The Blue Jays went 4-6 against a team that has truly become their nemesis, 1-4 in five one-point games and 2-1 in three two-point cases. A 12-4 Blue Jays win and a 4-1 Rays win were the outliers.
The focus over the last few days has been mostly on how the Blue Jays will line up their rotation – there has been a lot of talk about ‘keeping our options open’ and ‘how we can maximize and optimize’ the pitch – and that will be a big deal. important sub-plot.
There are no games like the Rays, who lined up their best with Blake Snell in Game 1, Tyler Glasnow in Game 2 and, if necessary, Charlie Morton for Game 3.
The fact that Hyun-Jin Ryu was not their automatic pick for Game 1 after pitching 100 throws and seven innings for the first time this season in Thursday’s decisive victory over the Yankees has raised the question of whether any thing was happening. Montoyo insisted his ace is doing fine, but Matt Shoemaker’s scheduled departure on Saturday was called off to pitch a paddock with Robbie Ray, suggesting the duo will be gearing up for the opener.
Objectively, the first game is very important because since 1995, when the wildcard era began, the winning team is 126-49 in the series, no matter the set or the length. Teams that go up 2-0, meanwhile, are 88-9 while those taking a 3-0 lead are 17-1.
In a best-of-three, of course, winning the first match forces the opponent to immediately face elimination, so there are reasons to ensure that your best arm receives the ball. But if Ryu feels like he would benefit from an extra day, well, you’ll probably want to prepare him for the best.
Offensively, the Blue Jays seem well established. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who left Saturday’s game after touching a ball to his foot, returned to the roster for the final and went 4-for-4 with a homerun and two doubles while Vladimir Guerrero Jr. , topped a 12-for-27 with his ninth homer of the season.
The duo, with Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette leading the roster, will go a long way in determining where things are going.
While Tanner Roark allowed four runs, two earned, in four innings to cap an uneven first season in which he finished second to the Blue Jays with 47.2 innings but finished with a 6.99 ERA, and Shun Yamaguchi was roughed up for a third place in the deciding fifth, the most important development on the mound linked to Jordan Romano’s batting practice earlier in the day.
The Canadian right-hander gave his all on the outing and as long as it doesn’t hurt on Monday, he should be on the postseason roster. He’s been out since suffering from pulley tension in his right middle finger, an injury similar to what Aaron Sanchez suffered in 2017 and had to undergo surgery to be repaired.