If only we could all have a Baltimore Orioles in our lives. What an ego boost that would be.
Needing a win on the second-to-last day of the season in order to keep pace in the wild card race, the Toronto Blue Jays were gifted one by the most wretched club in the major leagues.
Everyone knows the Orioles are bad. But this was next-level badness. Toronto scored at will in a 10-1 encounter that made three hours seem like 30.
Everyone in blue was great. Everyone in orange was terrible. Now it all comes down to Sunday.
Are you ready to be confused? Great. Let’s get started.
The Jays and Boston Red Sox won on Sunday. The Yankees were crushed by the Rays.
With one game remaining, Boston and New York are tied for the two wild card spots (91-70). The Jays trail them by one game (90-71). The Seattle Mariners can tie the Jays record if they win in the west coast game late on Sunday night. If the Mariners lose, they’re out.
After the game, starter Alek Manoah, the friendlier Marcus Stroman of 2021, was asked if he’d seen the Yankees score.
“No. Did they lose? Oh right, they showed it on the scoreboard. 12-2. Sick. Go Washington (who were then in the late innings with the Red Sox).”
Five weeks ago, the Jays were cooked. They were 6.5 games out of the wild card and written off by the algorithm that sets playoff odds.
On the one hand, what’s happened since is a tiny baseball miracle.
On the other, this will be more painful than your garden-variety playoff blowout if it doesn’t turn out. If that happens, all those missed opportunities early in the year, those dreadful late-inning collapses, getting jeered in their own “home” stadiums, will seem even worse.
With that in mind, Jays manager Charlie Montoyo went on an unprompted post-game ode to his team.
“Let me get this out,” Montoyo said. “Ninety wins in the American League East? After playing on the road for the first 200-and-whatever days? It’s impressive, man … I’m so proud of these guys. I don’t know if you guys were going to ask me that, but I just gotta get it out.”
Seeing what is clearly very genuine paternal pride on Montoyo’s face is bit hard to watch. Beyond the playoffs, you wouldn’t say a whole lot is at stake in Sunday’s game. With a couple of very notable exceptions, this team will return next year intact and possibly better.
Montoyo himself is the one person who exists outside that bubble of protection. If this is it for him, after doing what this team managed, with that bullpen, against their closest competition, it seems more than a bit unfair.
But that’s a topic for Monday or beyond.
Right now, things are a little more focused.
If the Jays lose, they’re out.
If they win, they could still be out, or they could be in a two-, three- or four-way tie (depending the result of Seattle’s game late on Saturday).
The permutations of each of those tie scenarios are so complex, it would require a separate article of equal length and far more brainpower than this author possesses.
It’s easier to keep eyes on the target – the Jays must win on Sunday and hope others do not.
If the best-case scenario comes to pass, the Jays will play in a play-in game in Toronto.
In the medium-case scenario, the play-in game happens in one of New York, Boston or Seattle.
In a bad-case scenario, the Jays have to play three games – two play-ins and the wild card – before they get to the AL Division Series.
In the worst-case scenario, there is somehow more math involved and I need to lie down with a cold compress.
The best news of all is that the Jays get to play Baltimore again.
(As Manoah put it, probably not wanting to offend them, but offending them nonetheless: “I didn’t go out there today thinking I was throwing against the Baltimore Orioles. I went out there hoping to throw the best game I can.”)
Every game in baseball on Sunday goes off at the same time, 3 p.m. ET.
The Jays start with Hyun-jin Ryu. Ryu has been mediocre in the second half of the season, but was effective in last start.
The Orioles counter with … honestly, does it matter? If you play for Baltimore, all you’re ever doing is try to survive over there – the season, the day, take your pick. Whatever talent there is on that team has been sucked dry by years and years of failure.
The Jays can take solace in the fact that all they can do is their jobs. Beyond that, whatever else happens is up to fate and, maybe, a very complicated formula.