It was thought that this season would be one too early for the Blue Jays. All of their legacy entrants were in MLB full-time, but there would be growing pains, and the pitching wasn’t quite there. And both of those things are still true. But sometimes you can’t predict the league coming back to you just enough.
The Jays won their seventh in a row last night, topping the Yankees in the Bronx for the third-straight time, 6-3. These three wins came after they absolutely blistered the A’s in Toronto for three, and the A’s and Yankees just happen to be two of their competitors for the two wild-card spots. Before last Friday’s action, the Jays were five games out of the coin-flip game, and had both the Mariners and A’s to pass to get there. Now they’re a game-and-a-half back and ahead of both.
It’s not much of a secret how they’ve ripped this streak off, as they’ve spent every night turning the baseball into paste, scoring 53 runs in these seven wins. Marcus Semien continues his push to finish second behind Shohei Ohtani in the MVP race, and Teoscar Hernandez bounced back from a midseason slump to utterly clobber the ball in September. Alejandro Kirk taking over at catcher has given the Jays yet another weapon in the lineup.
They’ve needed the runs because the pitching hasn’t been great. Jose Berrios has been hit-and-miss since arriving. Robbie Ray and Steven Matz have been excellent, but the Jays have been patching it together every other night. And that’s easier to do when your lineup is pummeling opposing pitchers dizzy.
What makes the Jays worth keeping an eye on from here on out is the schedule does them some big favors. After they finish up in the Bronx tonight, they’ll have seven games with the Orioles and seven games with the Twins. However, there is the small issue of six games with the Rays, but Tampa very well may be on autopilot soon, given their lead in the East and for best record in the American League. The Jays also have three more games at home with the Yankees, whom they’ll either have to chase down or keep at bay.
And the competition isn’t exactly grabbing these spots by the throat. Gerrit Cole had to leave Tuesday’s start early, and the rest of the Yankee staff is more improv troupe than the Jays’. The Red Sox are hacking up strangely colored stuff as well, and the A’s haven’t been able to get unfucked for a little while now. The question might be going from why to why not?
There isn’t anyone who doesn’t want to see Vlad Jr. in the postseason, and it just might be a soft opening for the years to come when the Jays make this a habit.
But let’s get the real question out of the way that everyone in Toronto will be asking. How does this affect the Leafs?
While the women’s U.S. Open semifinals today will be about the two teenagers who crashed the party, Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu, the story I’ll be watching is Maria Sakkari. I’m a sucker for redemption, and seeing someone overcome a hiccup in the recent past is always satisfying.
Sakkari served for a spot in the French Open final back in May, but coughed it up and lost a heartbreaker 9-7 in the third. It’s haunted her, clearly, and today will be her second major semifinal, first after that crash in Paris. Sakkari’s game is worth this stage, it’s just about her getting to match point and then through match point.
The women’s game has rotated semifinal spots and major championships lately — in Serena’s absence — like a joint at a high school party. Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty are the only repeat champs in the past five years. Some of that is just the competitiveness in the tour today. Some of it is a lack of gumption from others to really seize the stage. Sakkari missed her first chance, but it would be a great story to see her grab her second.