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The swap from regular-season baseball to post-season is fast sufficient to offer you whiplash. The 162-game slog is completed, and all of a sudden, most remaining groups are one loss away from being one loss away from elimination.
That is the place the Toronto Blue Jays discover themselves as they get set to host the Seattle Mariners for a three-game wild-card sequence starting Friday. All three video games will happen at Rogers Centre (Friday and Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, and Sunday if essential at 2 p.m. ET).
The winner advances to satisfy the 106-win Houston Astros, who’ve performed in three of the final 5 World Sequence.
Fuelled by younger stars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to a 91-win season in 2021 that left them one sport wanting the playoffs, the Blue Jays appeared primed to emerge as top-of-the-line groups in baseball. However after the Jays sleep-walked by means of half of the season, hovering round a .500 profitable share, the workforce fired supervisor Charlie Montoyo and changed him with bench coach John Schneider, who guided the workforce to a 45-27 report and the highest wild-card spot. Learn extra about Schneider’s influence right here.
The Mariners missed out on the playoffs by two video games final 12 months, which was particularly devastating for a workforce that hadn’t been there since 2001 and was carrying the longest post-season drought in main North American professional sports activities (that distinction now belongs to the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, at 16 years). Highlighted by a 14-game profitable streak in July, the Mariners matched final season’s whole of 90 victories — however this time, it was sufficient to advance.
On the plate
The Blue Jays’ offence is the only greatest on-paper benefit of the sequence. Even in a 12 months the place none of Toronto’s place gamers really broke out, the Jays led the AL in what are typically thought to be the three most vital charge stats: batting common, on-base share and slugging share. Its 200 house runs have been third within the AL, whereas solely the AL East champion Yankees scored extra runs.
Toronto’s energy is its depth, boasting 5 gamers who smacked not less than 24 house runs and 10 who cashed not less than 50 RBIs. There is not a ton of post-season expertise on the roster, however centre fielder George Springer received World Sequence MVP with the Astros in 2017 and is tied for fifth in profession playoff house runs.
Seattle, in the meantime, is extra boom-or-bust. The Mariners positioned fifth within the AL in house runs, however their .230 batting common was second-last within the league. Star rookie Julio Rodriguez, who hit 28 homers and swiped 25 bases, has the flexibility to show the sequence on his personal.
On the hill
Sensational sophomore Alek Manoah will begin Recreation 1 for Toronto. The beefy right-hander positioned himself on the fringes of the AL Cy Younger dialog by profitable 16 video games because of a 2.24 earned-runs common. He additionally appears to have the suitable mindset to achieve the playoffs, telling reporters at Rogers Centre right this moment that “strain’s one thing you set in your tires.”
Toronto hasn’t introduced its Video games 2 and three starters but, however it’s more likely to be Ross Stripling and Kevin Gausman in some order. Stripling is a finesse pitcher who loved a profession 12 months after filling in for the injured Hyun-jin Ryu, whereas Gausman lived as much as expectations after signing a five-year, $110 million US low season deal to exchange Cy Younger winner Robbie Ray, who moved on to — you guessed it — the Mariners.
Ray is scheduled to begin Recreation 2 for Seattle, which may arrange a juicy showdown in opposition to Gausman. The 31-year-old did not fairly repeat his Cy Younger-calibre season in Seattle, however he nonetheless racked up greater than 200 strikeouts over 32 strong begins. The Mariners’ ace is Luis Castillo, who was acquired from Cincinnati on the commerce deadline and did not lose a stride in his transfer to the northwest. Second-year starter Logan Gilbert, who pitched to a 3.20 ERA, will begin Recreation 3.
If the starters are a wash — and which may be very true in a three-game sequence, which saves Toronto from having to make use of the shaky Jose Berrios — then Seattle holds a slight edge within the bullpen, the place its workforce ERA of three.33 edged out Toronto’s still-solid mark of three.77. Blue Jays nearer Jordan Romano, of Markham, Ont., recorded 36 saves, the third-most within the AL.
Whichever workforce wins will likely be an underdog in opposition to Houston, whose World Sequence odds solely lag behind the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers. Vegas likes the Blue Jays as title contenders (+1400 to win all of it, 6.67 per cent implied odds) just a little greater than the Mariners (+2200, 4.35 per cent).
The Mariners’ upset system is easy: pitching, pitching and extra pitching. The Blue Jays’ offence is susceptible to chilly spells, but when it is buzzing prefer it has the previous month or so, Toronto ought to come out on high.
And if you end up anxiously ready round for tomorrow’s first pitch, you possibly can bide time reliving the glory years in this oral historical past of the Blue Jays’ 1992 World Sequence title by CBC Sports activities’ Doug Harrison.