I am currently flying home to Winnipeg to see my lovely family for thanksgiving, and although I am very much looking forward to seeing them I have a weight hanging over me that is like a rain cloud spoiling the entire day.
The last two days were a roller coaster ride; assuming that the ride was actually just a long grueling climb that took months of hard work before the coaster slammed you straight down into a pile of concrete over and over and over. It also doesn’t help that my head currently feels like it is at the bottom of the described rollercoaster as a result of my post game decisions yesterday.
Mood in Song Form: dedicated to David Price.
I feel so bad that we also need to listen to the saddest song of them all.
Lets get into it. Feeling low.
I wasn’t able to attend game one of the series due to the MLB scheduling the first Jays playoff game at 3:30pm on a Thursday. Thanks MLB for reducing what should have been a wonderful celebration across the country into a restricting matinee. I haven’t seen the rating number that the game put up, but I do know it was significantly smaller than what it should have been.
You might also think “Well, Canada is small compared to the United States, so viewership for the late games in the US is more important.” This would not be accurate. Last year the World Series had a rating of 10 to 14 million viewers a game. Non World Series playoff games are in the single digits, of which Canada bringing in an additional 2 -4 million viewers is a significant portion of the viewing audience. Missed opportunity MLB.
Not only was I not able to sneak out of work to attend the game, I didn’t even get a chance to watch it, so I followed along with twitter and texts from friends. A few thoughts from watching the highlights:
The pressure on this team to win at home was so immense. David Price carried that pressure and it got the best of him in a big way. The team was wound so tight that it needed Price to settle in and calm everyone down. Instead he hit batters, gave up a crushing homerun to a 9 hitter, and all around fought his way through his worst (and hopefully not last) performance as a Jay. It’s hard to knock the guy given what he has done for the team down the stretch, but it was a surprising and disappointing showing.
Donaldson’s slide to break up the double play that resulted in him leaving the game was a great job by him of compromising the throw. However, Donaldson came in so high on the play essentially sitting upright on his slide that it was no surprise that the resulting collision hurt someone. Donaldson only knows how to play the game one way, and I think people who have come out and said he shouldn’t slide the way he did are clearly basing it on outcome and not process. If you ask Donaldson to change things like this then you can also say goodbye to the diving catch into the crowd in Tampa earlier this year, or the sac fly to the short stop that he scored on in August. He plays the game with everything he has, and this was the unfortunate outcome of what allows him to be so great.
If I asked you to predict the score in a game and told you that Price was going to get rocked by the 8 and 9 hitters, and Donaldson and Bautista were going to leave the game injured you would likely predict that we would lose in a blow out. Despite all of that, we had the tying run at the plate in the 9th inning.
Texas won game one, but it did partially feel like the stage was a little too big and bright, and the weight of the expectations caused the Jays to give this one away.
After the game I enjoyed a few spirits with my friend Chris who flew in from Winnipeg to see game one and two with me. We were certainly upset about losing the game, but reassured each other with comments like “we are still the better team” and “Stroman has been lights out since his return” or “we mash lefty pitching. Hamels might get torched tomorrow”. Game two was now a must win game, and we had tickets behind home plate for it, so it was going to be a great day.
Game 2 – Friday October 9th
Bryanne and her friend Sean were headed to the game as well, so she was out of the house early leaving Chris and I to drink some green tea, finish up some work items for the week, and nurse or slight hangovers. Moral was pretty low even given the fact that things would be just fine if the Jays pulled through. I pumped “All I do is Win” to get us fired up as we headed out for a pre game pint.
We met up with two other Winnipeggers’ for a pre game pint at the Loose Moose on Front Street. The bar opened at 11:00, and by 11:15 we were seated at a table with a pint and the pregame on. Interesting things that happened at the Loose Moose:
CBC was in the bar trying to shoot a news piece. They came over to our table and asked us if we have jobs. We all laughed and responded yes. Wong answer. CBC was in a packed bar full of Blue Jay fans 90 minutes before a baseball game looking for unemployed people to ask them about what they think about being unemployed. They were not doing a Jays game or anything related to baseball. It was a very interesting journalistic choice. We all did decide that if we were unemployed we might be in a bar drinking at mid day.
Miller Lite was giving away free beers in the bar! Free tallboys! What was planned to be just a casual pre game beer quickly turned into 3 pints.
My friend Heffe was in for the game from Winnipeg and commented that everyone in the city seemed sad and needed to lighten up. Hef was 100% right that there wasn’t the joy or excitement level I anticipated for the game. He did his best to pick up everyone’s spirits with Fireball shots and entertaining stories. It worked wonders. We left the Loose Moose slightly drunk, and very fired up for the Stroshow.
Game Time. I got to my seat while Chris was getting a Donaldson T-Shirt to show his support for the MVP’s return to the line up. The anthems had already been sung and I stepped right into a towel waving crowd that was as fired up as one could be for a 12:45 afternoon game in a closed dome.
Standing in my seat waving my towel I had to choke back a couple of tears. It was a surreal experience to see ALDS painted on the first and third base line, the pennants hanging from the Flight Deck and Stroman run on the field with the confidence and fire of a man who embraced the pressure of the moment.
Then the game started and things took a turn. The first batter clobbered a ball to deep right field to start the game. Bautista had the ball jar out of his glove when he smashed into the wall, resulting in a double. This was a hard play to make, but was one that I fully expected Bautista to make. With a young pitcher on the mound and an overly hyped up city, we needed our All-Star player and the most vocal Blue Jay to steady things for us and he wasn’t able to do it.
Fast forward 15 minutes and we are down 1-0 and Donaldson and Martin screw up a routine run down which results in a Texas player trotting home. Before we have even recorded an out all three of our strong defensive All-Stars have either failed to come up with a key play, or played a role in a horrible error. This was the definition of a nervous start to a game.
Who stepped up for the Jays? None other than Chris Colabelo who continued his run as an unsuspecting gem. Colabello made a ridiculous bare hand snag on a ball that completely changed directions when hitting the turf, before catching a Texas player in another run down to complete the inning ending double play. It appeared Texas has gained so much confidence from its prior success in a run down situation that they thought it might work again.
Chris and I both agreed that getting out of the inning down 2-0 was a blessing given the way it started. Time to let the bats out.
Donaldson comes up to the plate for his first at bat of the game to the expected standing ovation and chants of “MVP”. All of the chatter was surrounding whether or not he was actually healthy enough to play. The first pitch he saw from Hamels he fouled back. The second one he hammered foul down the line. He looked okay.
He then took Hamels out to the deepest part of the park, on what appeared to actually be a pretty solid pitch. From our seats it was clear he hit it hard, but it wasn’t until the centerfielder put his glove hand down that it was clear he had cut the lead to 2-1. The MVP had struck, and it was party time! We were going to win this game, after all we were the best team.
From this point forward, timelines got a little bit hazy…
More sloppiness from the Jays. A runner gets from first to third on a routine ground out because no one covers third base. That runner scores. Mental mistakes are mounting and we aren’t doing a great job of helping our young pitcher settle in.
Thankfully the sloppiness transferred over to the Rangers in the bottom of the inning. Tulo has been struggling hard with the bat but reached on an error. Colabello continued his great play, and Martin and Pillar combined to bring them home. The mood in the dome changed significantly. All of a sudden we had our swagger back and had pulled the game even. Time to hit reset and get after Hamels.
Somewhere around 2:45 est
Stroman was cruising. He settled in nicely, was showing emotion and poise and the team responded. We even played some smart baseball in the 5th inning! Pillar hit a double, Goins bunted him over and Revere brought him home. We had the lead! It felt like the game was ours and we would put some more runs down. Towels were waving, the guy next to me was talking about going to see Stevie Wonder play at the ACC after the game…. All was good!
It stayed that way until the Rangers manufactured a run in the same fashion that the Jays had. A lead off single, a sacrifice bunt, and then a single through the middle. Cecil gave up the run to Napoli that brought many questions to mind. Why did Gibby stick with the dominant lefty against Napoli? Why was I so scared when Napoli came into the game as a pinch hitter? It also leads us to a painful “what if” that I’ve been thinking about since the game…..
What if…. Gibby goes to Lowe there and plays the matchup in the fashion most of us expected or wanted. Maybe Napoli doesn’t get a hit and the Jays get out of the inning with the lead. Cecil would then not be in the game to tear his calf and end his playoffs, and maybe Osuna would come on and lock it up like he looked so ready to do. That one decision seems like a very big domino today.
From that point forward, the game was kind of a blur. Osuna and Sanchez locked it down for almost 4 innings of work. Lowe got his job done, and we even went to Aaron Loup which scared the crap out of me but got the job done!
A couple moments stood out:
Donaldson almost did it again hitting a massive would be home run just foul that caused the dugouts to empty when the pitcher yapped at Donaldson. It was hard to tell live, but I guess there may have been a quick pitch and words exchanged. I fully expected Donaldson to smash a ball to finish the at bat, but he wasn’t able to.
Edwin just missed on a ball to straight away center to end the 13th inning. From our seats it was very hard to tell if it had legs, and for a brief moment I was full of joy.
Both teams repeatedly were frustrated by the umpire. Martin jawed with him all game, Tulo was called out on a ball a mile off the plate, and a Texas player stood at the plate after a called strike three for a good 5 seconds without reacting. The umpire was a total joke, lost control of the strike zone and disproportionately impacted the ability of the batters to attack a pitch. The number of defensive and uncertain swings sure seemed like a result of the umpiring.
The MLB commissioner was sitting in our section for the first 7 innings of the game. He had a security guard with him who was at least 80 years old, who was wearing a suit that was probably half that age. They are very fortunate that they left in the 7th and didn’t stick around for the nonsense. I don’t know if his attendance put the umpires on edge but I certainly had many things I would have suggested to him if he was sitting by us in the 14th.
The 14th inning was pretty much a nightmare. Hawkins never seems to have a clean inning, and regrettably this was no different. After getting two out and a getting ahead with two strikes it seemed like he would get us out of the inning. A base hit followed. The next batter the same thing happened, then the controversy at 2nd base happened.
Tulo applied a tag on Odor when it appeared he left the bag for what would have been the final out of the inning. The play was called safe and then reviewed, and then still called safe.
Here are my thoughts as clearly as I can state them:
I believe Odor’s foot came off of 2nd while Tulo was applying the tag
I think the replay shows with approximate certainty that Odor’s foot was off the bag
Yes it is not 100% conclusive. But the point of replay is to get the call right. In this situation, the Umps didn’t do that.
Why have replay if you can’t get proper camera angels to assess the plays, and you don’t have the guts to actually correct a call?
After the game concluded (the Stevie Wonder fan left before the end of the game…) we proceeded to drink beers and grumble about the Umpires until the early morning hours.
A day later I still feel like we got hosed by the umpires, the replay system, the game time, but most of all by our own nerves. This team is too good to get swept out of the playoffs, and I expect a much better performance Sunday in Texas.
I’ll be watching game three with my Dad while eating pumpkin pie. I hope to be doing the same thing Monday afternoon for game 4. We aren’t finished yet.