The Toronto Blue Jays season is not over yet! Their magical 2015 run can still be saved. The odds are certainly stacked against them being down 2-0 to the Texas Rangers in this ALDS. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Blue Jays were the favorites in the American League. But, in two short days, they’ve found themselves behind the 8 ball. But, it is not over. They have to win 3 games (which was the case when the series began) and cannot lose any. Sunday’s matchup is a must win, if ever there was one.
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The good news is that it is a very winnable game for Canada’s only team. They are sending the surprisingly effective Marco Estrada to the mound against the youngster Martin Perez. On paper, this looks like a game the Blue Jays should have in the bag. Of course, on paper, the first two did as well. This is not going to be easy, despite how it looks heading in. But, there are some things the Blue Jays can do to save their season.
While it is very easy to say that they just need to play better, it doesn’t make for an engaging conversation, nor does it pinpoint any actual keys to victory. So, below you will find exactly what this club needs to do to win on Sunday. It is actually quite simple. There are some glaring parts of the game that need to be improved upon. In short, it is kind of…everything.
Hit the Ball
Perez is going to present many opportunities for the Blue Jays to hit. In our profile of him from earlier today, we learned that he is very hittable. He will give up his fair share of hits. Which is a good thing if you’re a Blue Jays fan. This offense was the best in baseball during the regular season. It scored the most runs. Their 891 were 133 more than the next team. It also had its share of hits. They finished 6th in all of baseball with 1480 hits and second in average at .269.
Yup, hitting should be no problem. But, what will be a problem, is if they rely on the home run. They hit the most in baseball (232) and made no secret that it is their calling card. But, playoff baseball is a different beast all together. The homers are only helpful if you have someone on base. That is going to be key. The Blue Jays need to use their bats to put runners on and create runs.
Toronto Blue Jays
If they can produce scoring opportunities with their bats, they will have a great chance of taking this game. But, if they sit back and wait for the homerun, they are going to be in trouble. Perez doesn’t allow many bombs. But, he does give up hits. So, the Blue Jays need to focus on hitting the ball, not crushing it.
Catch the Ball
This seems so small, but the Blue Jays have had some issues with their defense thus far in the ALDS. In Game 1, it was Ben Revere who made an error in left field. Now, he’s not the best defender out there, but he has to be more like what we’ve seen since he came to Toronto. He was brought in not just as the guy who led the National League in hits last year, but as someone who would solidify the defensive issues of the first half of the season.
In Game 2, it was Russel Martin who was charged with an error. Again, this uncharacteristic of him. He’s been an absolute force behind the dish this year. One error is not the end of the world. But, in this context, it could mean the difference between your season ending and continuing.
In a one game, ‘lose and go home’ situation, the margin for error is so slim. And this creates pressure. For some, it is that very pressure that could cause an error. The Blue Jays need to walk that fine line of playing perfectly without trying to play perfectly.
Throw the Ball
Essentially, Marco Estrada needs to have the game of his career. That is saying something since this whole season has been a career year for him. If he can capture the form he displayed in Tampa Bay, for example, the Blue Jays can pull this victory out. Now, they do not need a near no-no to win. We’ve seen already that the Rangers can be held to a few runs. We know that Estrada can certainly do that.
The Rangers have been susceptible to mixing pitches and speeds in this series. That is Estrada’s calling card. He should rely on his location and the mixture of speed. This is actually a good situation for Estrada. He’ll have to avoid the long ball, though. The last time he was in Texas on August 27, he gave up just the lone earned run and didn’t surrender a homer.
The bullpen lost that game for him. They will need to change that this evening. Manager, John Gibbons, will need to manage the bullpen like there is no tomorrow. Because there just might not be. Apparently, David Price could be used out of the bullpen. That is likely not what the club would prefer to do. Instead, they’d like to use Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna with a lead. But, regardless of the situation, Gibby is going to have to make some serious decisions. We know he has relied on a mixture of matchups and loyalty and perhaps even pulling a name out of a hat throughout this season. But, this game will require pulling out all the stops. The Blue Jays have the arms to win. Will they be used properly?
Game 3 is a winnable game for the Blue Jays. In short, they need to improve on all aspects of the game. The biggest key for them is to hit. When they hit, they win. Their pitching and defense are good enough to keep them “in” games. And, you have to be in it to win it. But, just staying in it will not be enough. Being “in” a game does not advance you to the next round, or even the next game.