One more win.
That was all that the Toronto Blue Jays needed last season to reach the MLB (Major League Baseball) playoffs. Instead, they fell just short in a dramatic final day that left them determined to do better in 2022.
And now, one year later, they've lived up to that promise. And then some!
On the final day of this regular season, they are comfortably a playoff team. In fact, they've finished successfully enough to ensure that they will have home field advantage against their first round opponent, the Seattle Mariners.
What does that mean? When do the playoffs begin? And what comes next?
We will reveal all in our 2022 Blue Jays playoff preview!
For those who don't know, here is the quick background for how the MLB playoffs work. (If you do know, feel free to skip ahead!)
There are two leagues in MLB: the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). The top teams from each of these two leagues face each other in the World Series, which determines that year's MLB champion. (If you're curious, the defending champs are the Atlanta Braves.)
To get to that point, the AL and NL hold a series of playoff rounds. How do you qualify? There are three divisions in each league: East, Central, and West. The best team from each division automatically gets in. Then, the next three best teams from across the entire league enter as wild cards. This means that you can have more one wild card team from a certain division.
Wild card fun
The Blue Jays are one of those wild card teams. In fact, they are the top wild card team. This is a big deal because the wild card series is short. It is only a best-of-three (first team to win twice advances) and all of the games are played in the stadium of the team with the better record.
If you're following along, this means that the Jays will play at Rogers Centre in Toronto. This is a place that knows how to deliver an electric atmosphere in the playoffs ...
That was from 2016, the last time Jays played playoff games in Toronto. With at least two home games coming up starting this Friday, you can be sure that those crowds will be super hyped up to deliver the same sort of noise and enthusiasm to try to push their team over the finish line.
So what is that team like?
New era, full of promise
In 2015 and 2016, the Blue Jays were one of baseball's best teams. But they were also a team of players nearing the ends of their careers. By 2017, it was clear that the team needed to rebuild. Fortunately, they had a core of very promising young players waiting in the wings.
That group included four sons of legendary stars—Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Loudres Guirrel Jr., and Cavan Biggio. The Jays also traded for other young players with real potential, like Teoscar Hernandez. Though it took time, they slowly let this group learn and grow.
Then, as those players started to realize their potential, they began adding players with veteran experience. This group has included George Springer, Matt Chapman, Jose Berrios, and Kevin Gausman.
Add in a few exceptional young pitchers, like current All-Stars Alek Manoah and Jordan Romano, and you have today's team. The club is not without its flaws. But overall, they boast terrific pitching, fearsome hitting, and a well-balanced defense.
And unlike those 2015/2016 versions, they are a mostly young team whose best days are still ahead of them.
Who are the Seattle Mariners?
So the Blue Jays sound pretty good. But what about their competition?
As you might expect, all of the teams who have qualified for the postseason are pretty darn great. Of those teams, the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers are the most complete. But what about Toronto's first round opponent, Seattle?
The Mariners got off to really poor start to the year. But since the middle of June, Seattle has been one of baseball's top clubs. They added an exceptional pitcher, Luis Castillo, mid-season and have a really balanced team that has fully embraced being the underdog. They have also qualified for the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years, which was one of the longest such streaks in all of North American pro sports.
And they have an interesting star in their lineup, ace pitcher Robbie Ray. Last season, he won the AL Cy Young Award as the league's best pitcher ... while a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. (What a twist!)
In other words, Seattle is a solid team that is peaking at the right time. They also won five of the seven games the teams played against each other this year—though they won only one of the three played in Toronto.
What does all of this mean?
Who knows? That's what makes the playoffs so exciting!
On paper, the Blue Jays are the slightly better team and will boast a major advantage playing in their home stadium. But Seattle will be full of belief and their best pitchers are just as good as Toronto's.
And did we mention that as an American team right across the border from British Columbia, Seattle has a pretty strong fanbase in western Canada, too (here, loyalties between Canada's only MLB team, the Jays, and the Mariners are often split right down the middle).
Bottom line? In a short series, anything can happen. Including something like this ...
Should be fun! See you Friday, sports fans!