Following a loss to the Cleveland franchise in the 2016 American League Championship Series, the Toronto Blue Jays entered a rebuild that appeared to be a couple seasons behind the Chicago White Sox. Most fans did not expect the Jays to be a serious contender this year, but the shortened season and expanded playoff format mean that more teams will have a chance at making a title run. 2020 has also seen breakout seasons from young players while established stars have struggled.
Entering the 2020 season, Teoscar Hernández was known as a bat-first outfielder with a high strikeout rate. In 2020, he has nearly doubled his home run rate to 9.5% from 5.6%, while cutting his strikeout rate below 30%. Although he is walking less, Hernández is making harder contact more frequently, up to 61.7% from 43.8% in 2019. He is also making more contact on pitches thrown in the zone, although he is swinging at fewer of these pitches overall. This suggests he has become more selective about which baseballs to murder.
The young Jays slugger’s heroics led Toronto to its fourth straight victory on Sunday, defeating the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 6-5. After Baltimore took a 5-4 lead over Toronto in the top of the 9th inning on a RBI single by Jose Iglesias, the Jays loaded the bases with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, bringing Hernández to the plate. The Toronto right fielder drove a single into left field to score two runs and give the Jays a walkoff victory at their pandemic home stadium of Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York.
Baseball Reference now projects the Jays to have an 83.9% chance of making their first postseason appearance since 2016, a 14.5% improvement over the past week.
The Blue Jays will have a chance to improve their odds with a sweep of the Orioles tomorrow afternoon. Baltimore rookie Keegan Akin (0-0, 8.10 ERA) is scheduled to face Chase Anderson (0-0, 3.68 ERA) starting at 2:07 PM ET.
Featured Image: Toronto Blue Jays sign by Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock.com.