The regular season is over and the final stats are in.
The Toronto Blue Jays won the American League East for the first time in 22 years, finishing 93-69 thanks to a 43-18 mark over the final two months and change. That was good enough to finish five-and-a-half games up on the New York Yankees, the second-best record in the American League and an ALDS meeting with the Texas Rangers, who claimed the AL West with a 9-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Before getting into the match-up with the Rangers, a brief pause for a round of applause for the Blue Jays organization – this is a franchise that had previously had the dubious distinction of owning the longest playoff drought in the majors and thanks to some savvy moves both prior to and during the season, the drought is over and the Blue Jays are back in the chase to win the World Series.
(stands and applauds)
Josh Donaldson exceeded expectations, David Price has been every bit the veteran ace this club dearly needed and guys like Ben Revere and Mark Lowe have been valuable contributors, as have several of the core players from the last couple seasons that haven’t gotten enough credit for their role in this second-half run.
Strange as this may sound, not finishing with the best record in the American League feels like the better outcome for the Blue Jays. They were 4-2 against Texas this season, winning 2-of-3 at home and on the road, and get to play in a hitter’s park in every game of this series.
Additionally, because they didn’t clinch their place in the playoffs until Game 162, it means Toronto won’t have to see Texas’ left-handed deadline acquisition, playoff veteran Cole Hamels, who earned the win over Los Angeles yesterday. While Texas will still be able to confidently roll out Yovani Gallardo, who pitched 13.2 scoreless innings against the Jays in their last two meetings, Toronto will counter with Price, who posted a 9-1 mark with a 2.30 ERA and an WHIP fractional points above 1.00 since joining the Jays.
The Rangers are solid, but nothing special; a good club with a balanced offence, two quality starters and sound defense. Their biggest strength all season has been their bullpen, which was bolstered at the deadline by the acquisitions of Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman, who joined closer Sean Tolleson, rookie Keone Kela and Sam Freeman to form a formidable unit.
But make no mistake about it: the Blue Jays are the favourites and – despite having dropped their final two games of the season when they had the division sewn up – should have an advantage by being able to roll out Price twice if needed.
While Toronto has some roster decisions to make, they’re entering the postseason relatively healthy. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was able to get a couple games under his belt to shake off the rust after he suffered a fractured scapula back in September and outside of the normal bumps and bruises accumulated to this point in the season, everyone else seems ready to go.
And you best believe that these guys will come out looking to keep this roll going. Though guys like Russell Martin have been here before, for many on the Blue Jays roster, this is their first taste of playoff baseball and they’re going to want to experience as much of it as possible. Having endured a number of frustrating years – both in Toronto and around the league for some of the Jays – this is a chance to do something special and take part in the best moments of each baseball season.
If you thought the last two months were exciting, get ready to see a whole different level of electricity in the Rogers Centre when the ALDS kicks off on Thursday.
Complex Canada will recap each and every Blue Jays playoff game, breaking down the good, the bad and the trends to keep tabs on every morning after the game.