Firing on all cylinders, the Toronto Blue Jays are rolling through the postseason thanks to hitting, hurling and hustle.
The Toronto Blue Jays just swept the Texas Rangers in the ALDS. They won 3 games in a row against the team with the highest win total in the American League. They swept Rougned Odor. Revenge has been exacted and it is sweet. The high road travelers will tell you that beating the Rangers in this manner is the best kind of payback. Watching the look on Odor’s face as the Blue Jays were celebrating proves that point correct.
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) October 10, 2016
Perhaps what it is more enjoyable than watching Odor stare in defeat (which is pretty awesome- go ahead, have another look), is the way the Blue Jays won this series. The 3 games had a bit of everything from them. In Game 1, we saw that bats go off for 10 runs, including a triple from Troy Tulowitzki, a solo shot from Melvin Upton Jr.and a 3-run bomb from Jose Bautista. It was a 13 hit attack that the Rangers just could not contain. The bats were made that much more impactful thanks to a masterful performance from Marco Estrada. His 8.1 innings of work was the ace-like start you want to begin a playoff series.
Game 2 was a bit of a different story. We know the Toronto Blue Jays can hit home runs. They reminded us against Yu Darvish. 4 home runs later, the Japanese starter was knocked out of the game. The start from J.A. Happ was not as dominant, but it certainly did its job in keeping his team ahead. And, the bullpen came in and shut the door. It was not such a lopsided affair, but Toronto escaped with a victory that put them up 2-0 in the series. All of a sudden, they were in control and had home field advantage on their side.
Game 3 started with more of the typical Blue Jays style: home runs. Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin homered to put their club ahead. But, things didn’t go as planned. With Aaron Sanchez on the mound, we entered the game feeling pretty good about our chances, but the 24 yr old struggled to find his command and the Rangers fought their way back. Odor home run aside, this was the first game where the Rangers showed signs of threatening the Blue Jays for a win.
But, how this game ended is the final example of a team rolling that you like to see: Hustle.
This play was the epitome of a guy who was determined to carry his team. His heads up hustle home is reminiscent of when he tagged up on a fly ball to the second baseman against the Indians last season. But, it is not the only hustle that Donaldson brought to the 10th inning. He hit a double to the gap that he had to bust his tail for. You could see the determination on his face as he rounded first to take that extra base. Putting himself in scoring position opened up a number of possibilities for his team to bring him in; for someone else to be the hero.
While the possibilities for bringing that run were numerous, they way things played out was definitely unexpected. A potential double play unfolding and the only thing that saved it was hustle. Martin hustling down the line put pressure on the Rangers infield, Edwin hustling into second put pressure on Odor, which led to a terrible throw. And, Donaldson hustling around third with his head up put pressure on Mitch Moreland to pick up the ball quickly and throw it to Jonathan Lucroy, who had the pressure of trying to make a quick tag. It started with Donaldson, and ended with him as well. But, everyone involved was busting their rear ends. They wanted the win. The hustle displayed by this club to scratch out a run has to add another layer of confidence to their postseason run.
It is something that often goes unnoticed:
The conversation about how Jays carry themselves–bat flips, inside pitches, etc.–distracts from reality that they play really, really hard
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 10, 2016
So, here we have a Blue Jays squad that has demonstrated everything you need to be successful in the postseason. They’ve seen their bats come to life, scoring 22 runs in 3 games. They’ve seen their starting pitching keep them in games at the bare minimum, with some dominance mixed in. They’ve also seen their club scratch and claw to manufacture a run from sheer hustle. It is this combination that has the team riding some serious momentum at exactly the right time of year.
No one knows how the rest of the postseason will play out. The Blue Jays will have some time off to rest guys like Devon Travis and hope that Francisco Liriano recovers quickly. It will also allow Donaldson et al to heal from the bumps and bruises that make their hustle that much more impressive. Who they get ready fro remains to be seen. Whether it is the Cleveland Indians (who Mark Shapiro is rooting for) or the Boston Red Sox, the good news is that the Blue Jays appear to have all of their weapons working at the same time.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.