Hopefully a return to Skydome in Game 3 of the ALCS makes all the difference for the Blue Jays.
(Photo courtesy of Sean Marshall)
The way that the Blue Jays have lost these first two games against Cleveland in the ALCS is the exact same way they’ve been losing to Cleveland all season long. In Toronto’s six losses to Cleveland this year (4 in the regular season, and now 2 in the post-season), the Blue Jays have lost four of those games by one run. And in those six losses, Toronto has averaged 14.7 strikeouts per game, and a piddly 1.2 runs per game. A team only gets 27 outs throughout a 9 inning game, so at 14.7 strikeouts per game in each of Toronto’s losses to Cleveland in 2016, they’re striking out 54% of the time. To put that into perspective, a great strikeout percentage for a hitter is 10%, an average percentage is 15-20%, and then anything above 25% is considered poor.
The Blue Jays bats absolutely erupted against the Rangers in the ALDS, and they were facing some pretty decent starting pitchers in Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. You can’t tell me that Corey Kluber and Josh Tomlin are that much better than Hamels and Darvish. Toronto was so motivated to not just beat Texas, but to pummel them, and that same fight is nowhere to be seen in their series against Cleveland. What we’ve seen so far from the Blue Jays is the exact same kind of performance that happened far too often with this offense during the regular season, with far too many strikeouts from players swinging for the fences trying to be the hero in these close ball games. This is exactly what happened last season as well in the ALCS against Kansas City, with Toronto hitters not taking what’s given to them and trying to crush the ball out of the park regardless of the type/location of pitch and the situation with runners on base.
Did the Blue Jays wonderful performance against Texas in the division series maybe have something to do with the added motivation of beating a team that so weaselly went about taking their revenge on Jose Bautista earlier in the season? A revenge that included hitting him with a 97 MPH fastball in the ribs during the second to last inning of the last game of the regular season between the two teams. And then on top of that of course was the punch thrown by Rougned Odor to Bautista’s jaw. If the Blue Jays did play as well as they did against the Rangers on account of this sort of added motivation that stems from a combination of hatred and revenge, than Toronto may need to come up with something fast that might motivate them in a similar fashion in this all important championship series against Cleveland.
Understandably, Cleveland is a hard team to hate. In Terry Francona, they’re led by a manager who’s a very likable and respected guy who has his team play the right way. And much like Francona, Cleveland’s line-up is also filled with a group of extremely likable players, the one exception being starting pitcher Trevor ‘3-Finger’ Bauer. If there was an award for most sportsmanlike team, it may very well go to Cleveland…but that’s still no excuse for the Blue Jays to not have the eye of the tiger when playing against them. Cleveland may have a smile on their face when playing the game, but it still doesn’t mean they won’t hesitate to kick your ass come game time. It’s time for Toronto to wipe that smile off Cleveland’s face and show them the team that beat them so emphatically 17-1 back on July 3, and get right back into this series.