Thursday night could have marked the end of many things for the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only was the series finale against the Baltimore Orioles a critical game for Wild Card seeding, but there is a possibility that it also represented the final home game for Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and many others.
In response, the Blue Jays played one of their poorest games of the season.
Toronto now enters their final series of the season in Boston tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the American League Wild Card. Detroit remains 1.5 games behind, but do have four games remaining compared to three for the Jays and Orioles.
What if they tie?
According to the MLB’s tiebreaker rules, a colourful and poetic bit of verse that can be read in full here, Toronto and Baltimore would play a one-game tiebreaker to determine home field advantage for their one-game playoff.
“Two-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot: One tiebreak game will be played to determine the Wild Card. Home field advantage will be determined by the rules above for a two-team tiebreaker.“
Ezequiel Carrera got another start on Thursday and hit leadoff with Devon Travis (back from injury) slotting into the nine hole. Carrera is no everyday player, but has earned the trust of manager John Gibbons in spurts. With Jose Bautista a more viable option as a designated hitter than right-fielder, Carrera could sneak in and steal some playoff innings if the Blue Jays reach that point.
Bautista is typically known for making the biggest bang in the biggest moments, but his potential curtain call at the Rogers Centre left much to be desired. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, an unexpected showing after heating up in the past two weeks. This is more outlier than norm for Bautista recently, especially given his strong on-base tool, so it shouldn’t be treated as a storm cloud.
Elephants afraid of mice?
One head-scratching trend that has followed the Blue Jays through this season is their curious inability to rough up the starting pitchers that they’re supposed to. Ubaldo Jimenez entered play with an ERA well over 5, but held Toronto to just one hit over six and two-thirds innings. Jimenez also lines up with a Wild Card start now should that enter the conversation.
Pitching still checks out
On the bright(er) side, Toronto’s pitching is exactly where it needs to be to make a deep playoff run. Marcus Stroman was not brilliant in his start by any means, but kept Baltimore within reach by allowing four earned runs on nine hits over seven innings. Both he and Francisco Liriano have looked strong lately, so behind the trio of Sanchez, Estrada, and Happ, Toronto can easily go four starters deep without much worry.
The bullpen looked sturdy on Thursday, as well, despite not needing to call on it’s high-leverage arm. Aaron Loup struck out the only batter he faced and Ryan Tepera pitched one and two-thirds innings, striking out three.