Blue Jays' season comes to crushing end
Toronto races out to 8-1 lead before historic Seattle rally
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays’ season is done, following a 10-9 loss on Saturday that featured a stunning comeback by the Seattle Mariners that won’t just be talked about all offseason, but for years to come.
Up 8-1 after five innings, with Rogers Centre shaking and all signs pointing to a winner-take-all Game 3 at home on Sunday, the Blue Jays imploded, allowing what’s tied for the second-largest comeback in AL/NL postseason history.
“The postseason is great, and the postseason sucks,” said interim manager John Schneider, “because at some point if you're not the last team standing, you have to rip a band-aid off and your season is over.”
No road team in postseason history had mounted such a comeback, and this was the largest comeback to clinch a postseason series in MLB history. It’s the type of loss that will stick to the Blue Jays, forever a case of “what if.” The only way to shake this is with a deep run or World Series berth in the coming years, making this the brutal lesson that brought the future into focus. But right now, next season feels decades away.
“Obviously, I’m not happy,” a dejected Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said through a club translator. “I’m frustrated. This is what it is. But I’m not happy.”
With the score tied at 9 entering the ninth inning and Canadian closer Jordan Romano on the mound, Adam Frazier doubled in the go-ahead run as Rogers Centre sat silent and shocked. The energy was a completely different animal compared to the quiet, 4-0 setback in Game 1 Friday, but the 47,156 watching on couldn’t believe what was playing out in front of them.
Toronto’s big lead looked safe early, but began to spiral out of control when the Mariners scored four runs in the sixth and eighth innings to erase what was once a big Blue Jays lead. J.P. Crawford’s bases-loaded double to tie the game quickly became a more serious story, though, when center fielder George Springer was injured on a scary collision.
On a looping fly ball falling in shallow center field, Springer and shortstop Bo Bichette came together at full speed, both in awkward positions as they dove. Both stayed down at first, with Bichette popping up 30 seconds later, but it was immediately clear that Springer’s situation was more serious. The star outfield rolled onto his back while teammates and trainers ran to him.
Springer’s head contacted Bichette’s outstretched arm on his dive, and from that initial impact, his body crashed down even harder to the turf. The medical cart was needed to get Springer off the field, but as it exited through the left-field corner, the 33-year-old waved his hands in the air, pleading with a stunned and silenced Rogers Centre crowd to make noise. Schneider said after the game that Springer was OK and gave a speech in the clubhouse, but not the speech the veteran wanted to be making.
An hour after the loss, still, the Mariners were celebrating on the Rogers Centre field. It was a celebration of a young, free team, chanting one another’s names. Their kids were cartwheeling on the infield dirt. The smell of cigars filled the entire stadium. After being down by seven runs, it was a surreal celebration to watch.
“We don't quit,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais. “We haven't quit all year. There's a certain resolve that our group has. They just believe in each other. We talked about it coming into this series. We were going to have difficult moments. We knew that. That's what happens when you play on the road in big games.”
Both Schneider and Kevin Gausman, Saturday’s starter who was lifted just prior to Tim Mayza giving up a three-run home run in the sixth, spoke about the human element of this loss. They’ve become close in that clubhouse. These aren’t just teammates, but lifelong friends. They’ll soon be saying goodbye to them, some for good.
“It’s just a heartbreaking loss,” said Gausman. “Tough to watch. It sucks when you're out of the game and you don't have any more say in it, right? You're essentially just watching and hoping. Yeah … that was tough.”
Where do the Blue Jays go from here? They’ll return the vast majority of this roster in 2023 and are encouraged that they went from 91 to 92 wins this season, but this is no longer about small steps. The jump from good teams to great teams is Major League Baseball’s most difficult to make.
The next four months will scrape by. Every step the Blue Jays take will be evaluated in the light of what happened Saturday night in Toronto, and rarely has this city seen a more devastating loss on the diamond.