Oh Canada

The Toronto Blue Jays are once again trying to break through the glass ceiling in the competitive American League East. For the first time since the early 1990s, the Blue Jays are getting serious hype as a contender for the American League pennant. Look at MLB lines, it is easy to see that Toronto has the respect of odds makers.

The Blue Jays are the favorite to win the AL at +600. With a young star like slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of the legendary Expos outfielder, Toronto seems to be building toward something great. The Blue Jays last won the World Series when they went back-to-back in 1992 and 1993. Toronto, though, spent many seasons in the wilderness after they became the first Canadian team to win a World Series. Last season, the Blue Jays were 91-71, but finished nine games out of first place in the division and just missed out on the Wild Card. 

Toronto is hoping it will be able to capitalize on its status as favorites. Here’s a look at the closest they came to getting back on top since beating the Phillies in six games in the 1993 Fall Classic.

Back with a bang

After not making the playoffs for 22 years, the 2015 season was a cathartic one for Toronto. The Blue Jays, behind AL MVP Josh Donaldson, won the AL East title with a 93-69 record. In the American League Division Series, Toronto gave hints of being a team of destiny. Toronto dropped the first two games of the best-of-five series at home, including a gutting 6-4 loss in 14 innings in Game 2.

However, the Blue Jays responded quickly, picking up a pair of four-run victories on the road in Games 3 and 4. When it came down to the final game of the series, Toronto had to come from behind. In the bottom of the seventh inning, with Texas leading 3-2, the Rangers fell apart. Texas opened the bottom of the seventh inning by making three straight errors. Donaldson tied the game by hitting into a fielder’s choice before Jose Bautista made the series-turning hit and left controversy in his wake.

Bautista blasted a three-run home run that ended up being the deciding runs in the 6-3 victory. However, he also admired his work and flipped his bat, which ended up leading to the benches being cleared after Texas didn’t appreciate his celebration.

While Toronto’s return to the playoffs provided a lot of excitement, the Blue Jays’ stay in the playoffs didn’t last long after the ALDS. Toronto would bow out in the ALCS in six games to the eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays fell behind 3-1 in the series, including an embarrassing 14-2 loss at home in Game 4.

Wild Card route was no easier

In 2016, the Blue Jays again made the playoffs, but couldn’t win the American League East, finishing four games behind the Boston Red Sox. However, Toronto would end up advancing farther in the playoffs than the Red Sox did. First, the Blue Jays plated three runs in the 11th inning to stop Baltimore in the Wild Card game. Edwin Encarnacion won the series with a three-run, walk-off home run.

Encarnacion is one of four players – along with Bill Mazeroski, Chris Chambliss and Aaron Boone – to end a winner-take-all game with a home run. The rematch of the previous year’s divisional series, Toronto flattened Texas, sweeping the Rangers in three games.  However, the ACLS was one again a nightmare for the Blue Jays.

Against the Cleveland Indians, Toronto lost the first three games of the series by a combined five runs While the Blue Jays would bounce back to win Game 4 5-1, their hopes were quickly snuffed out in a 3-0 loss in Game 5.

Pandemic provides opportunity

During the shortened season in 2020, the Blue Jays’ young core started to show their promise. Despite being forced to play in Buffalo due to COVID-19, Toronto finished 32-28 to grab a playoff spot. The Blue Jays would fall in the first round to Tampa Bay, being swept in a two-game series.

Toronto lost the first game 3-1 and the second game 8-2.

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