All 162 Games Will Now Mean Something

by Brendan Panikkar | Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2016
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Francisco Liriano could be tasked with saving the Blue Jays season in a potential wild-card game.

Francisco Liriano could be tasked with saving the Blue Jays season in a potential wild-card game.

The 2/3 series loss to the Baltimore Orioles likely means that all 162 games will mean something for the Toronto Blue Jays which could hurt them if they get to the wild-card game. Toronto had a chance to solidify their spot in the post-season by taking 2/3 or clinch home field in the wild-card game by taking all 3 against Baltimore. The opposite happened after a promising start. The Orioles find themselves tied with Toronto but technically still 1.0 game behind Toronto when you consider that if both teams finish tied at seasons end, the wild card game would happen Tuesday in Toronto because the Blue Jays have the tie-breaker by winning the season series 10-9.

Now, the MLB could be in for a very quirky finish to the season. Yesterdays Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians game got rained out at Comerica Park. It will only be played if the game means something for the Tigers or the Indians. The Tigers would need to play the game if they finish .5 back of either Toronto or Baltimore. The game would be made up on Monday and they could tie either team. That could force a tiebreaking game to determine wild-card positioning and more confusing scenarios I haven’t even fully wrapped my head around. The Indians could need to play the game if they end up .5 game up on the Boston Red Sox. An Indians loss would give Boston home-field or an Indians win gives them home-field.

The Seattle Mariners find themselves very much alive in the race as they are only 2.0 games back of both Baltimore and Toronto. They could play their way into a tie-breaker or more. It’s going to be crazy.

Now, losing 2/3 games to Baltimore could drastically affect the Blue Jays going into the wild-card game. The hope would be that Toronto finds a way to take the first two games from Boston and Baltimore drops two games against the New York Yankees. If that happens, Sunday is meaningless. If Detroit drops either tonight’s game (Friday September 30th) or tomorrow’s game coupled with a Blue Jays win, Sunday could be meaningless when it comes to just clinching a playoff spot. Of course, it is all very confusing to explain and impossible to get at.

However, what I am trying to say is it is looking like Sunday’s game could be for the Blue Jays going to the post-season or not. In that case, Aaron Sanchez would be making his start against David Price. That would obviously take Sanchez out of the running to start the wild-card game. It’s a foregone conclusion that J.A Happ will need to start the game tomorrow night in Boston which also takes him out of the running for a wild-card game start. Marco Estrada starts tonight for Toronto.

At this point I think I speak for all Blue Jays fans when I say that they will just take the post-season berth if it’s at the Rogers Centre or elsewhere. If the Blue Jays have clinched a wild-card spot by Sunday but not home field for Tuesday’s game, Sanchez will not make his start and R.A Dickey likely gets the start which could solidify a home game or perhaps send the Blue Jays elsewhere.

The point of this article was to try to paint a clearer picture of this muddy playoff race that likely won’t be solved until Sunday. Keep in mind, the weather in Boston is supposed to be terrible and full of rain which could add to the mess the MLB could be heading for with scheduling issues and a potential delay of the start of the post-season.

The other point of this article was to determine what options the Blue Jays have if Sanchez starts Sunday and the Blue Jays end up going to the wild-card game. I’ll rank them from least likely to most likely.

Option 3

This option likely doesn’t happen though it certainly wouldn’t be ruled out. With Marco Estrada starting tonight for Toronto, the Blue Jays could determine Estrada ready enough to pitch on 3 days rest (pitching the 4th day) for the wild-card game. I don’t think this happens though.

Option 2

Marcus Stroman starts the wild-card game with Francisco Liriano in the bullpen to come in if Stroman doesn’t have it. In a winner take all post-season game, it’s a different beast. If Stroman comes out in the wild-card game and is flat and getting hit hard, you could see Liriano starting to warm up to come in the ball game as early as the 2nd or 3rd inning.

Option 1

Francisco Liriano starts the wild-card game with Stroman behind him in the bullpen. Same scenario as above. I do find this the likeliest scenario if Sanchez pitches Sunday. Though Stroman didn’t pitch terribly last night (September 29th), he did get hit around to the tune of 9 hits and 4 earned runs over 7.0 innings. Liriano on Wednesday was brilliant over 6.1 innings scattering 6 hits and 10 strikeouts to just 1 walk against Baltimore.

Ideal Situation

Obviously the ideal situation is that regardless of where the wild-card game happens, Aaron Sanchez is skipped on Sunday because the Blue Jays have a spot locked up. If Sanchez is not skipped on Sunday, Liriano gets the start. The likeliest opponent at this point does seem to be Baltimore and Liriano made Baltimore look foolish while Stroman did not. The Orioles have hit Stroman hard all season long. Liriano may have pitched himself into the next best option after Aaron Sanchez to start the wild-card game seeing as Estrada is likely not a candidate and J.A Happ is definitely not a candidate. I think regardless of who the Blue Jays play, Liriano gets the start if Sanchez has to pitch Sunday because Liriano has pitched in a wild-card game before with the Pittsburgh Pirates and actually won the game with the aid of 2 Russell Martin home runs. Crazy eh?

We can sit here and dream of all these scenarios and what happens if this happens or that happens. The bottom line is:

JUST HIT AND WIN!

The rest will take care of itself if they just hit and win.

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Brendan Panikkar
About the Author

Brendan Panikkar is a graduate of Brock University's Sport Management program. Currently, he is the Vice-President, Customer Service at North Aware. He loves all sports but baseball and football take precedent over hockey and basketball. Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Argonauts, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Raptors







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