“Baseball is (bleeping) crazy, man.”
Those were the words of Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano, delivered with a shake of the head a day before things would get even wackier with his mercurial ball club.
Our chat with Romano came prior to Friday’s opener of three against the Red Sox and in the ugly aftermath of the four-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers.
Romano’s foreshadowing point: Expect the wild ride to continue from a season that has not been reduced to two weeks, four series and 12 games.
After the blowout brooming inflicted at the hands of the Rangers, it certainly felt like the Jays were bottoming out. Sloppy, uninspired play in the field and on the base paths infuriated fans and tumbled the team out of a wild-card spot.
Then came the three-game sweep over the Red Sox, one that was hardly inspiring given the continued struggles at the plate and more shoddy attention to the important basic details.
Against Boston, pitching was paramount — as it has been all season — but the offence, not so much.
The Jays allowed only five runs over the three games but scored just 10, two of those coming in extra innings. It is an offence that remains as enigmatic as it does unreliable, an ongoing concern as October approaches.
So now what?
Sweeping the Red Sox certainly created a considerably less stressful pathway to the post-season as the team enjoyed an off day in Manhattan on Monday before commencing a three-game series in the Bronx against the Yankees.
The Jays began that off day in possession of the second American League wild-card spot, a half game ahead of the Rangers and 1.5 up on the Seattle Mariners, who tumbled outside the cutline after getting schooled by the Los Angeles Dodgers on the weekend.
If you’re willing to buy the idea that the magic win number to secure an AL wild-card ticket is 89 — which seems reasonable — the Jays merely need to go 6-6 to get there.
To reach the same total, the Rangers will have to put together a 7-6 record while the Mariners would have to fashion an 8-5 mark down the stretch.
As we’ve certainly learned over the past week, nothing is guaranteed with this Jays team, especially with such an enigmatic offence.
Picking themselves up off of the mat following last week’s abomination was the first stop towards securing a spot. Now the assignment is to maintain it — and hope for more self-destruction from their fellow pursuers.
As much as the three-game sweep of the Red Sox was a critical bit of success for the Jays, none of those victories were postcard worthy in their beauty.
That said, a trio of players stood out to us for significant, if unheralded contributions.
He didn’t get a save or a win out of it, but Romano shutting down the Sox in both the 10th and 11th innings on Saturday with ghost runners to start the inning was among the most clutch work from the Jays closer this season.
Next up, fellow reliever Chad Green, who pitched the 13th and got the ‘W’ on Saturday and in so doing offered his biggest contribution yet to the Jays. Green was back up for his eighth appearance since recovering from Tommy John surgery on Sunday, striking out two of the four batters he faced in the seventh and eighth.
And finally, the contributions Cavan Biggio have made lately are arguably his most significant in his time with the club. Over his past 12 games, Biggio has gone 12-for-36 (.333) with three doubles, a homer and eight RBI.
WHAT ABOUT VLAD?
Does home runs in three consecutive games mean the booming bat of Vlad Guerrero Jr. is back?
Not necessarily, although it is obviously a massive harbinger for the run-starved Toronto lineup should the first baseman build off that overdue long-ball burst.
“It looks like he’s seeing the ball better,” outfielder Whit Merrifield said. “He’s on time, seeing the ball early and putting good swings on pitches, which is what you want to do as a hitter. When he’s doing that, he’s hitting balls hard — really hard.”
Jays starter Chris Bassitt has noticed similar fluidity to the at-bats of Guerrero, who leads the team in homers with 24.
“I think he’s quieter than he’s been the whole year, especially the lower half,” Bassitt said. “He’s obviously understanding that pitching staffs are afraid of him and they should be.”
The problem with the Jays “attack” — and yes, we use that term loosely — is that it has been far too inconsistent, Guerrero included.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The Jays are in no position to eyeball potential pairings in the wild-card round, but there are essentially three realistic possibilities.
The Twins, Rays and Orioles are the most likely destinations for a best-of-three WC clash with the Astros remaining a possibility.
If the Jays stay in the second WC spot, their hosts would either be the Rays or the Orioles, depending on which finishes second in the AL East. But if Toronto drops back to third, the Twins would be the opponent.
Based on betting odds, anyway, Minnesota would be the preferred destination with the Twins sitting at 22-1 odds to win the World Series followed by the Orioles (7-1) and Rays (9-1).