This is it for the Toronto Blue Jays.
A week of heartbreak that turned into hope down in Arlington, has now brought the Blue Jays back to square one with a winner-take-all game against the Texas Rangers here at the Dome.
In a season that has featured many games labeled as the “most important game in 22 years”, us Blue Jays’ fans get to see at least one more, with a trip to the ALCS on the line.
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As much as I love the other sports in this city, baseball and its playoffs have always been the most exhilarating to me.
Sure, in hockey, you can have a hot team sneak into the bottom half of the playoffs and run the table, or get a hot goalie and ride him to the finals (although they rarely win it all). But baseball has a such a sudden-death feel to it in respect to the amount of games.
It’s a round shorter than the other two, the first series is only five games, and there are only half as many teams that get in.
The most abstract of instances, whether when it was between Bucknor’s legs for the Red Sox in ’86, or Bartman sabotaging his own beloved Cubs in ’03, can seem to create a narrative and take on a life of their very own unlike any other sport by the time the final out is called.
The games are consistently faster paced, as only the best pitchers are trotted out. A single error or home run can deflate or elate an entire stadium, or in the Blue Jays case, an entire country.
Oct 8, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; A general view of the playing of the Canadian national anthem before game one of the ALDS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Which brings us back to tonight and the question burning through the minds of Blue Jays’ fans: will the Blue Jays prevail? Will they punch their ticket to the next round and write a brand new chapter that this club and fan base has been dying for since Joe touched ‘em all?
Standing in their way will be a battle tested playoff veteran in Cole Hamels.
It’s fitting how he helped Philly forget the torment we handed them back in ’93, and now he is back to try and lay some of that pain to us after absolving the Phillies of theirs.
However, what Hamels faces, when its clicking, is one of the best offences Major League Baseball has produced this century, and arguably the best ever for the Blue Jays.
Oct 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman prepares to pitch in the first inning against the Texas Rangers in game two of the ALDS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
In other words, he is not facing the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays and he damn well knows it.
Remember, this same lineup nearly beat Hamels last time around, and if the “Taylor Swift Curse” is indeed not true at the Rogers Centre, they will be even more primed to mash the future hall of famer.
Opposite of him is a kid in Marcus Stroman who, had this been ten years ago, would have never been able to come back from a torn ACL he suffered in March to pitch in these playoffs.
It’s a combination of youthful healing, medical science, fearlessness and a level of composure rarely seen at a guy his age.
Stroman is primed to write his own name in Blue Jays’ lore with his performance tonight.
Not a bad spot for a Bronx kid that was only two the last time we were here.
Expect him to lunge for the kind of glory he has been training for since he first picked up a ball.
But whether we win or lose tonight, I’m so damn excited to even just see this happen. The Blue Jays have fought hard to get back in this series, now let’s finish the job boys.
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