Scorching Blue Jays get statement sweep, shake up playoff picture

July 24th, 2022

BOSTON -- Statement made.

The Blue Jays have kicked the door down to open the second half, sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway Park by a combined score of 40-10.

With Toronto at its best and Boston at its worst, this was as lopsided a series as you’ll see all season, changing the outlook of the AL Wild Card race and sending the Blue Jays home atop a tidal wave of momentum. Coming off a first half that felt like a long, drawn-out failure to launch, three scorching days in Boston have finally shown what the 2022 Blue Jays are capable of doing.

“We did what good teams do when they see and sense a weakness,” said Ross Stripling. “That Red Sox team is obviously riddled with injuries and are obviously not playing as good as we know they can. We took advantage of it and we swept them here at Fenway for the first time in seven or eight years. That’s what good teams do when they smell blood in the water. They get after it.”

Sunday’s 8-4 win featured another comedy of errors from the Red Sox, who continued to treat the baseball like a live snake defensively, while the Blue Jays seemed to find every hole Fenway had to offer. It wasn’t quite Friday’s record-setting 28-5 win, but they all count the same for a Blue Jays club that’s now won six in a row.

Heading home to face a Cardinals team that will be without two superstars in Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, this is what the Blue Jays showed the league in Boston:

Awaken the Beast
With 40 runs on 51 hits over three days, the Blue Jays’ bats have never been hotter.

It’s come with plenty of encouraging individual performances, too. Raimel Tapia’s quiet emergence kicked into overdrive as the speedy outfielder had six hits and 10 RBIs in just two games. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who’s still looking to recapture his MVP-level form from 2021, went 4-for-5 Sunday and has 12 hits in his last five games. The stars are aligning, finally.

Toronto’s lineup has still ranked among baseball’s best this season, but the lack of timely hitting and the backdrop of the ‘21 powerhouse has left it feeling like something less. This lineup should be running opponents out of stadiums, which is exactly what they did to the Red Sox.

New Identity
When interim manager John Schneider took over the Blue Jays, he told us not to expect any grand strategic overhauls. If anything, maybe the club would be a little more aggressive.

That undersold it. Toronto has quickly embraced an in-your-face identity, bringing each game to their opponent’s doorstep instead of waiting and reacting. This fits the Blue Jays’ collective personality, a young club brimming over with energy, turning dugouts into dance halls. Even while they underperformed, this roster is stacked with talent on paper, so it only makes sense to be the aggressor.

In Saturday’s 4-1 win, the closest thing to a “normal game” this weekend in Boston, you saw the perfect example. Behind 0-1 in the third with Matt Chapman on first, the Blue Jays put on the hit-and-run with Santiago Espinal at the dish. Schneider likes running this play with Espinal because he trusts the young All-Star to adjust his swing and put a ball in play, even if it’s not a prime pitch.

The execution was perfect, the type of hit-and-run that should be shown to six-year-olds learning about it for the first time. With the Red Sox second baseman being drawn to the bag, Espinal shot the ball the other way and Chapman, with a full head of steam, scored all the way from first. This wasn’t the biggest, loudest, sexiest play of the weekend, but it’s the exact type of play that can win a 3-2 game in October.

“I love it,” Schneider said. “If you can set the tone or not wait around for something to happen -- and there will be times we do that with some guys -- but we’re trying to keep the pressure on.”

Wild Card Reset
For a time, it looked like the AL Wild Card race belonged to the East, with the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays set to cruise in behind the world-beating Yankees. Not so fast.

The win moves the Blue Jays into the No. 1 Wild Card spot, a half-game up on the Rays and 1.5 up on the Mariners. The Guardians, Red Sox, White Sox and Orioles all sit within four games of that final spot, creating a potential logjam in late September, but Toronto has positioned itself better than anyone could have expected two weeks ago.