After a wild final stretch of the 2021 regular season, the Toronto Blue Jays entered Sunday’s Game 162 one game behind the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card standings. In order to advance to the Wild Card Game, the Jays would need to win their final game and hope for a Boston or New York loss.
The Jays did their part by beating the Baltimore Orioles in a 12-4 rout (box score). However, the Jays’ two AL East rivals also won their games, which eliminated the Jays from contention. Four AL East teams finished 2021 with more than 90 wins (Tampa Bay, Boston, New York and Toronto). As the team with the worst record of those four, Toronto will be spending the rest of October watching from home.
According to ESPN’s rankings as of this writing, Blue Jays had the #1 ranking in team OPS for 2021 (.797) but were only 10th in ERA (3.91). Robbie Ray is a top contender for the American League Cy Young Award, but the bullpen was not significantly improved until the trade deadline. Inability to hold leads cost the team a few games earlier in the year and these losses haunted Jays fans as the calendar turned towards October.
Many important members of this year’s staff will remain under team control for several years, but the Jays will need to add depth to contend for a pennant in 2022 and beyond. They will also have an important decision to make regarding whether to pursue Ray, who is entering free agency ahead of his age 30 season.
Toronto fans should be proud of the team’s success in 2021 and look forward to meaningful baseball in the seasons ahead. This year’s result was disappointing, but the Jays have improved significantly over their 67-95 finish in 2019, the last full season of Major League Baseball. They also have a franchise cornerstone in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a solid supporting cast to compete in the years ahead.
This year’s AL Wild Card Game will feature yet another ESPN broadcast of the Yankees and Red Sox. Boston will host New York at Fenway Park at 8:08 PM ET on Tuesday night. Get your bingo cards ready for a four-hour talk show featuring the dulcet tones of Álex Rodríguez, Matt Vasgersian and Buster Olney.
Gerrit Cole (8-4, 2.6 ERA) is slated to face Nathan Eovaldi (11-9, 1.61 ERA). Chicago Cubs fans will remember the last time we saw Cole pitch in a Wild Card Game between division rivals, he was unable to outdo Jake Arrieta‘s complete game shutout. Cole allowed four runs on six hits to the Chicago Cubs, including a laser beam home run to the Allegheny River by Kyle Schwarber, who Cole will be facing on Tuesday night as a member of the Red Sox. Yankees haters will be rooting for a similar performance.
Featured Image: Sign of Toronto Blue Jays logo on June 28, 2016 by Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock.com.