Roberto Osuna’s huge save reflects superb rookie season


Oct 14, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Roberto Osuna reacts after retiring the Texas Rangers in the 8th inning in game five of the ALDS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna is no ordinary 20-year-old. The rookie reliever emerged out of the shadows in Spring Training this year to become a saviour for the Jays.

Picture this – you’re 20 years old and standing on a pitching mound in front of almost 50,000 emotional people yelling your name. You’re one strike away from sending your team to the American League Championship Series for the first time in 22 years. This next pitch will mark the most pitches that you’ve thrown in a game all season. Make a mistake and the tense fans will throw their beer cans in your general direction. You nod to your catcher, wind up and throw a perfect pitch that slides down and away from Will Venable‘s swinging bat. Chaos ensues. Your teammates and coaches mob you, champagne begins flowing freely and your team celebrates with elated fans.

But you can’t picture that, can you? Because you’re 20 and you’re normal. You’re probably partying your way through college, or dropping your laundry off at your mom’s house or working at McDonald’s trying to figure out just what to do with your life.

But Osuna isn’t exactly like every other 20-year-old. The Mexican native showed veteran poise on Wednesday night, retiring all five batters he faced in Game 5 of the ALDS. Notably, he struck out four of the batters.

Manager John Gibbons normally wouldn’t have gone to Osuna in a situation like that, if lefties Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil were available. But because of their unavailability, Aaron Sanchez, who struggles against lefties, was left in to face the likes of Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland – both who reached base before Osuna relieved Sanchez.

And Osuna came in looking like he was in mid-summer form. His pitches were unhittable, he was hitting his spots and fooling the Texas hitters. With runners on first and second and one out, and the tying run at the plate in Josh Hamilton, Osuna didn’t show any nerves. He struck out Hamilton on a 97-mph fastball and then made quick work of Elvis Andrus on a slider, a pitch he also struck out Mike Napoli and Venable on in the ninth.

But Osuna has surprised and dazzled all year. He came into Spring Training with an outside shot of making the team and won over Gibbon’s heart, and clearly never let go. Despite not converting a save until June 22, Osuna ended up 13th in the American League with 20 saves. He also led Blue Jays’ relievers in appearances, with 68.

Osuna threw a season-high 33 pitches on June 22 against Tampa Bay, so his final pitch of the game to Venable would be a career high for him. He sure picked a good time to push himself to that limit.

More from Toronto Blue Jays News

Osuna did hit a road bump in September and even his two appearances in early October caused some fans to worry he was tiring after a long season. He pitched to a 4.91 ERA in 11 September games, but it wasn’t so much that he was being hit around as much as he was giving up timely homeruns. Osuna gave up four homers in September, which is surprising because he had only given up three homeruns in the five months previous to that.

But whatever it was, it is definitely over. Osuna has risen to the occasion in the playoffs, throwing 5.2 perfect innings in the series with Texas, without giving up a baserunner.

Who expected this?

Did anyone expect Osuna to make the team this year? No. Did anyone expect him to become the Blue Jays’ full-time closer for the entire season? No. Did anyone expect him to convert 20 saves and set youth-related team records? No.

Most of all… did anyone expect the young kid to throw a 5-out save in a winner-takes-all game that would send the Toronto Blue Jays to the ALCS? You would be lying if you said you did.

But Osuna did all that. And that’s pretty remarkable.