The Blue Jays crashed right after the postseason

A shameless optimist might see things this way: Even if you’re seven runs down in the second of a best-of-three series and things are feeling hopeless, a game doesn’t have to be completely lost. MLB’s new wildcard format debuted this weekend, swapping out the old single-elimination games for a format closer to a regular-season series. No days off, no travel, just wall-to-wall baseball. It rewards starting pitchers that can go long, bullpen depth in their absence, and a bread-and-butter management strategy. And that’s why, even after Danny Jansen put the Blue Jays ahead 8-1 over the Seattle Mariners with a double down the right field line in the bottom of the fifth inning, the optimist may still have seen a chance for the Mariners. Not in this game, but in the next. Call it a small win in loss. The Jays’ bullpen had been a suspect all season and didn’t stand a chance against Seattle’s; Bring the game a little closer, force Toronto to burn some relievers, and Sunday’s Game 3 suddenly looks a lot more winnable.

No one – not even the shameless optimist – could have imagined what actually happened: a big, real win, no loss required. Seattle came back from behind to defeat Toronto 10-9 on Saturday, completing a two-game sweep and advancing into the ALDS for the first time since 2001. It was the second-biggest comeback win in postseason history (we won’t be doing it any time soon). forget the epic 1929 Philadelphia A rally from the bottom eight) and the biggest on the road.

The Mariners struggled to get things going against Jays starter Kevin Gausman, while the Jays had made quick work of it with Mariners starter and former Blue Jay Robbie Ray. Gausman gave up three straight singles to start the sixth inning, but his wipeout splitter resulted in a strikeout and a pop-up to mostly pull him out of the mess. Despite this, Jay’s manager, John Schneider, denied Gausman the final from the inning and drew Gausman after 95 pitches for left reliever Tim Mayza. “Shit when you’re out of the game and don’t have anything to say anymore, right? So you’re essentially just watching and hoping,” Gausman said afterwards. He seemed comfortable with his manager’s decision, although a Jays fan could reasonably question it.

Next came Carlos Santana, who hit the switch, and with the bases loaded, Schneider prioritized power avoidance. Mayza’s splits against righties are poor, but Santana, while hitting lefties better on average, had hit 16 of his 19 homers this year with lefties. Also, he’d hit Gausman hard last time. (In the previous inning, Santana sent a double slam off the wall just inches from home run distance.) The strategy, while sound in theory, didn’t pay off. Santana took the shameless optimist’s advice. A wild throw from Mayza scored the third-place runner, and then Santana hit an unlikely homer to the left to score three more.

Give these mariners an inch of hope and they’ll go a mile. The Jays added an insurance run to extend the lead to 9-5 by the end of the seventh, but a second bullpen error, this time courtesy of Anthony Bass, forced the Jays to move All-Star closer to Jordan Romano at two and no outs in the top of the eighth. Romano gave up a single to load the bases, and while he knocked out the next two batters, it wouldn’t be enough to put the Mariners off their fate. “It seems that in a very short time everything that could go wrong went wrong,” Schneider said. George Springer, positioned deep in midfield, charged hard for a ball that was hit softly in the shallow center. Bo Bichette, realizing it was going to be a tough game for Springer, also ran for the ball. The shortstop’s attempt to help proved extremely unhelpful and disastrous. Springer and Bichette collided, nobody made the play, and JP Crawford’s “pop-up double” cleared the bases to level the game. Springer, in and out of the lineup all year with injuries, took the worst of the collision. He left the game on an ambulance, but was well enough to weakly encourage the silent and desperate Toronto fans to keep their spirits up, which they didn’t. Who could blame them? It was one of the most daunting innings you’ll ever see, certainly one of the top two this wildcard weekend.

Cal Raleigh and Adam Frazier both doubled in the ninth inning to put a tenth run on the board. Suddenly, the Jays found themselves in a game they had been playing when they were seven not so long ago. George Kirby, an excellent rookie starter who served as the Mariners’ bullpen luxury in that series, came in to take ninth place. He’s the subject of a pretty lovable one Seattle Times Story Today in which Kirby says he was so excited to run out of the bullpen that he felt like “he probably could have reached 105.”

Kirby’s last relief appearance of any kind came in 2018 when he fielded for the (get it yourself) Harwich (Massachusetts) Mariners in the Cape Cod College Summer League.

“Just playing in one postseason game was amazing,” Kirby said. “Whatever Skip (Scott Servais) wants to do with me, I believe in him. And I’m just glad he believed in me.”

Kirby, for the record, didn’t hit a 105, but he did top out at 99 mph — after averaging a 95.2 on his four-seam fastball during the regular season.

The Jays, who learned their lesson the hard way, will likely spend the offseason shore up the bullpen. Vlad Guerrero Jr. also learned to never try to give the media cool quotes, because you can only be haunted by them later. Speaking to the press at spring training, he promised an improvement on the 2021 season’s 91 wins. “What we did last year was a trailer. Now you watch the movie,” he said, exaggerating a 92-win season. The movie was quite entertaining, even if the twist ending felt undeserved and abrupt. The Blue Jays crashed right after the postseason

John Verrall

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