I told you. Don’t let the Toronto Blue Jays into the tournament.
I said that with my baseball mind, not my heart. Rip open my chest, and you’ll find me rooting for the Red Sox to make Chicago Cubs fans cry in the World Series. My heart tells me that the Red Sox are ready to make another championship run, given their relentless offensive attack and much-improved pitching staff — top to bottom — in the month of September.
My mind tells me that the Blue Jays are the most dangerous team in Major League Baseball. And as long as they have a pulse, that won’t change.
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Toronto was on life support twice in the past week. But the Red Sox and Detroit Tigers couldn’t team up to end the Blue Jays’ season. Boston lost to Toronto in the final two games of the regular season, while the Wild-Card hopeful Tigers lost their final two regular-season games to the lowly Atlanta Braves.
Then, the Baltimore Orioles had a chance to go into Rogers Centre and eliminate the Jays in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card game. But Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off home run in the 11th inning kept Toronto alive.
And they’re not just alive. They’re the most dangerous team in the postseason.
An injury scare to 21-year-old closer Roberto Osuna in Tuesday’s Wild Card game would have made Toronto a little less dangerous, but all signs point to him being ready to go against the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
It will be a rematch of last year’s ALDS, but that doesn’t mean the result will be any different. Toronto won last year’s dramatic series in five games. This year, the Jays could end it in four, which would take them back to the ALCS for the second straight year, where the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals eliminated them in 2015.
I have the Red Sox defeating the Cleveland Indians in four games in their ALDS series, but even if I’m wrong, I expect the Blue Jays to advance to the World Series, where they’ll be the ones to make Cubs fans cry.
You see, Toronto’s scary offense gets most of the attention. And rightfully so. Its 2-through-7 hitters each have 20-plus home runs in 2016. The Blue Jays can downright mash, and because of that, they’re never out of a game. But what gets overlooked is the fact that they can pitch with the best of them.
J.A. Happ is a 20-game winner, and Aaron Sanchez finished the regular season with the best ERA in the American League at 3.00. Don’t forget about Marcus Stroman, who has all the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation guy for a long time. And then there’s veteran lefty Francisco Liriano, who Toronto acquired at the trade deadline.
Liriano had a 2.03 ERA in six starts in the month of September, and last got a taste of the postseason in 2013 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, going 1-0 with a 2.07 ERA in two starts.
Point is, don’t sleep on Toronto’s pitching. Not against Texas. Not against either Boston or Cleveland. And not even against Chicago, or any other National League team that they might face in the World Series.
The worst part about it all is, it didn’t even have to come to this. The Red Sox could have eliminated them. The Tigers could have eliminated them. The Orioles could have eliminated them. Instead, here’s Toronto, playing in front of a raucous crowd, mashing home runs, pitching just as good if not better than everyone else, while being a team that experienced a serious postseason run last year.
The Blue Jays are in. They’re alive. And they’re the most dangerous team in the postseason.