The Toronto Blue Jays are going back to the playoffs, at least, they are unless something extraordinary comes out of left field during the final week of a Major League Baseball season that has been like no other in the 150-plus year history of the game.
So, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, right?
Entering their Tuesday night tilt against the New York Yankees in Buffalo, the Blue Jays’ magic number to clinch the American League’s second wild-card playoff spot is three.
Thanks to baseball’s 60-game sprint — some 102 games shorter than a ‘normal’ regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic — and its expanded playoff tournament in which 16 teams instead of 10 make the post-season, Toronto will be playing meaningful games in October for the first time since 2016.
Again, barring an outright collapse by the 28-26 Jays and a miraculous winning streak by Seattle, the L.A. Angels, Baltimore or Detroit — all sub-.500 teams — Toronto will claim the second wild-card spot and will likely play either Tampa Bay, Chicago, Minnesota or Oakland in the best-of-three wild-card series.
Just making the playoffs in what has been a topsy-turvy, rollercoaster ride of a year should be celebrated by Blue Jays fans, considering the club was rendered homeless due to the non-essential travel ban at the Canada-U.S. border just days before the season was set to begin.
There were question marks across the roster as well, including whether the marquee off-season signing of pitcher Hyun Jin-Ryu would pan out, and if up and coming stars like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio would be able to elevate their performance.
All of those guys have had their ups and downs in 2020 but other players have had outstanding stretches of play, including Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, Rowdy Tellez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Taijuan Walker, Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis.
A spate of injuries to key players such as closer Ken Giles and starters Nate Pearson and Trent Thornton were offset by trades for Walker and fellow pitchers Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling, so credit must be heaped on general manager Ross Atkins for plugging the holes in the ship and to manager Carlos Montoyo for keeping all the players rowing in the same direction.
Oddsmakers aren’t giving the Blue Jays much of a chance to win the World Series this year, but with everything that has transpired over the last few months, just making the playoffs feels like a huge accomplishment and bodes well for the future of the franchise.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.