Toronto stumbles at last hurdle
Sport is life, with a character revealed in the world of sport, with every twist of every game of soccer, basketball or football, or every punch of a heavyweight boxing match . Plans are made, but character is revealed, and nothing is more metaphorically telling than october baseball. The Blue Jays led Seattle 8-1 after five innings and still found a way to crash, and nothing says more about Toronto’s past seasons than that.
Giving up nine unanswered runs, the Mariners won Game 2 by a score of 10-8. Even more telling not just of the Blue Jays, but of the entire league, as the power shift was entirely self-inflicted.
Kevin Gausman was untouchable. He had good speed, perfect control and a breaking ball that fell completely off the table. After the Rays loaded the bases, Gausman took out Mitch Haniger, then got a pop from Adam Frazier five pitches later. The decision was made, entirely based on Gausman’s pitch count, to shoot him. Tim Mayza threw the first pitch and scored a run. He then gave up a three-run home run to Carlos Santana.
It started a long slide where Toronto’s bullpen was wiped out by Seattle’s strike, giving up race after race until all nine races had slipped through their fingers. It’s now been the sixth straight year the Blue Jays have gone from contender to eliminated in September or October. For such a talented team, their inability to finish in the fall is worrying.
Seattle will now move on to the ALDS, where they will have their hands full as they take on perhaps the strongest team in baseball, the Houston Astros.
The guards circle around
Cleveland managed to take a franchise in crisis and turn it around, emerging as one of the strongest competitors heading into the playoffs. Over the past four years, the team with the longest active World Series drought has had its controversial name dropped in favor of the moniker “Guardians” and their fortunes up and down reversed.
As the 2022 season approaches, and even halfway through, no one predicted that Cleveland would take the AL Central. They faced two tough opponents in Minneapolis and Chicago, and to be honest, the wheels have had a way of wobbling off the cart in recent years for Guardians.
Picking up 92 wins during the season and wiping out both the White Sox and Twins along the way came as a shock to most, but no one was prepared for how Guardians would wear this form in October and dominate the Tampa Bay Rays in two games in this Wild Card Series.
The Guardians are achieving these surprises with a largely rookie formation, having made clever use of their farming system to get here. This lead to an exceptionally healthy team at the precise time of year when most teams are licking their wounds. Key to their run to the top of the division was this healthy composition, when, after trailing the Twins for more than 100 days, the Guardians knocked down the basket of apples in a two-week run at the end of the month of September.
To get past the Rays required a 15-inning marathon and a run, and now the Guardians will have to up the ante as they head to the Bronx to take on the New York Yankees. While Cleveland picked up wins with low scores and solid throwing, the Yankees booked their ticket on the back of long bombs and home runs.
With the Game 2 Wild Card contest setting the record at 4 hours 57 minutes for the longest 0-0 game in playoff history, the Division series probably won’t be as biting. The Yankees don’t have the patience for this kind of game.