The Blue Jays clinched a home playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, defeating the Boston Red Sox in the 162nd game of the season.
The Blue Jays badly needed to win their last series of the season. Doing so against the red hot Boston Red Sox was not an easy task, but they managed to get the job done on Sunday. The win secured the Jays’ spot in the Wild Card game, and also meant that the Blue jays would host that game against the Baltimore Orioles.
Both the Blue Jays and Orioles actually clinched their place in the game with the Detroit Tigers’ loss earlier in the day. However, the outcome of both games determined who would host the Wild Card game, and the Blue Jays win meant they will host on Tuesday. The Jays held the tiebreaker with the Orioles, so the game takes plate in Toronto despite identical 89-73 records.
The series against the Red Sox was an extremely important win for the struggling Blue Jays, giving them some momentum going into the playoffs. Sunday’s win in particular offered plenty of important positives for Canada’s team, and hopefully they can be the catalyst this talented club needs going into the postseason.
Home playoff game
As mentioned, Sunday’s win means the Blue Jays will host the Orioles in the Wild Card game. The pressure packed one-game series means every advantage is important, and having your home crowd behind you is significant. Many Blue Jays players spoke of their respect and appreciation for the fan support in Toronto this year, and with just shy of 3.4 million in attendance in 2016, there’s good reason for them to feel that way.
Both Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil mentioned in post-game interviews that “we have the best fans in the world”, and it’s clear that many players feel that way. Having that atmosphere in the Rogers Centre will be helpful, and is certainly an appropriate reward for a great fanbase this season.
Continued dominant starting pitching
The Blue Jays rotation had a 1.64 ERA in the back half of September, and were particularly dominant in the season’s final week. Aaron Sanchez was spectacular on Sunday, and out-duelled David Price in a matchup that would have looked a lot scarier one year ago. Sanchez took a no-hitter into the 7th inning and finished with a line of just two hits and one earned run over 7 innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
The start lowered Sanchez’s ERA to an even 3.00, putting him in the lead amongst American League starters.
That is pretty significant company for the 24-year-old ace, and he answered the bell on Sunday just as he has all season. His 7 innings brought him to 192 for the year, and he looked as though he has plenty left in the tank for a playoff run.
Big save for Osuna
Roberto Osuna has had another fantastic season in 2016, but has struggled a bit over the last week or so. He came up big for the franchise again on Sunday, finishing the season with 36 saves in 42 chances.
The save will help restore any temporary blip in the young closer’s confidence, especially considering the circumstances he faced on Sunday. With playoff-level pressure, Osuna was tasked with the heart of the Red Sox order in Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, and Hanley Ramirez. He did walk Ramirez before eventually getting Jackie Bradley to fly out, but he navigated arguably the toughest trio in the American League this season, with just a one-run lead.
Won series in Boston & Got Ortiz in a clutch moment
The Red Sox may not have had a playoff spot on the line, but they were still playing for home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs and failed to secure that on their own. The Cleveland Indians won on Sunday, which means they’ll have the home field advantage in their ALDS series with the Red Sox, which could be significant.
The Jays also have to be thrilled that “Big Papi” didn’t get one last clutch moment in his regular season career. His plate appearance in the 9th screamed for drama in his final regular season game, and it was significant for the confidence of the Jays to have kept the future Hall of Famer at bay.
The Jays will have to hope for the starting rotation to continue it’s recent hot streak, especially in a one-game Wild Card scenario. That task appears as though it’ll go to Marcus Stroman, and there’s no doubt he’ll bring his custom intensity to the tilt, especially with a home crowd behind him.
They’re going to need to find a way to score more than two runs though, regardless of how well the rotation performs. Here’s hoping Sunday’s win and clinching a home playoff game can be just what the doctor ordered for the offence, just in the time for when it matters most.