It’s the morning after for Blue Jays fans, and while the dull sting of Friday’s ALCS defeat will last on throughout the winter, a taste of late October has invigorated a starved baseball nation. The coming days will be spent picking apart the small moments that tilted the bigger picture in game six, but as is often the case in baseball, it came down to situational fundamentals.
Perhaps it’s best to set an offseason ground rule first and foremost: complaints about the umpiring of game six should stay in Friday. Was that really a home run? Was the strike zone given to Ben Revere or Dioner Navarro fair? It doesn’t matter, and nothing is changing. Today is Saturday, day one of the offseason, an offseason that follows nearly seven months of unpredictable bounces and calls that have gone in both directions.
From the word ‘go’, Toronto was presented with opportunity. A Revere double in the first at bat of the game would be stranded, as all three of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion put up unproductive appearances after hacking at the first pitch. Some will point to Ryan Goins and the decision to take a first pitch strike before bunting foul earlier in the game, too. A successful bunt there puts the Blue Jays in a great spot to bring across another run.
You can look to the defensive side of the ball on Kansas City’s go-ahead run, as Jose Bautista ran into the right-field corner with Lorenzo Cain burning around second and third. If his cutoff throw had of gone to first instead of second, is there a play at the plate? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Does Roberto Osuna walk Cain in the first place if he goes with a fastball on 3-2 instead of a slider? Same answer.
In the end, Toronto was hamstrung by a consistent inability to hit with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-12 on the night. After Russell Martin singled to lead off the ninth, Dalton Pompey stole both second and third base. There he stood, 90 feet away, but Revere, Navarro and Donaldson all failed to bring him home.
You’ll hear each individual decision or outcome blamed for the entire series loss at some point today, but the game six defeat was an accumulation of small missteps that eventually snowballed. This Blue Jays roster should have all the talent necessary to make another playoff run in 2016, and now, they’ll know what to do when they get there.