2022 Toronto Blue Jays
2022 Toronto Blue Jays / Franchise: Toronto Blue Jays / BR Team Page
Clinched Wild Card: September 29, 2022
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2022 Toronto Blue Jays came into the season as early favorites, after missing the postseason by the slightest of margins the year before: in a pre-season poll, only the Los Angeles Dodgers finished higher on the list of teams most likely to reach the World Series. This came after a busy off-season that saw both some major departures and also some major acquisitions. Leaving were 2B Marcus Semien and SPs Robbie Ray and Steven Matz, all coming off excellent seasons that had raised their sticker price in free agency beyond what the Blue Jays were willing to pay, but they were all replaced, with Ps Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi coming on board as free agents, and 3B Matt Chapman in a trade with the Oakland Athletics just as spring training was starting. There were a few other more minor additions, including relief pitcher Yimi Garcia, and two left-handed bats to balance a heavily righthanded line-up: C Zack Collins, acquired in a swap of backup catchers for Reese McGuire, and Raimel Tapia, in a trade of outfielders for Randal Grichuk.
The Blue Jays opened their season at home at the Rogers Centre on April 8th, and for the first time since 2019, they were able to do so without any restrictions on attendance. A sell-out crowd of over 45,000 was present to see P Jose Berrios, just re-signed to a large extension, completely fall apart, giving up a homer to the first Texas Rangers batter he faced, Brad Miller, before leaving after retiring just one batter, having given up 4 runs. The deficit reached 7-0 by the 4th inning, when the Jays' much vaunted bats finally came to life. Everyone up and down the line-up contributed: CF George Springer had a pair of walks and scored twice; SS Bo Bichette had a couple of hits and 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. two run-scoring singles; RF Teoscar Hernández hit a three-run homer and scored the go-ahead run that was only allowed after a video review on a double by LF Lourdes Gurriel; DH Alejandro Kirk hit a sacrifice fly; C Danny Jansen homered; and 2B Santiago Espinal hit an RBI double. The bullpen was excellent, and the Blue Jays ended with a 10-8 win for the biggest season-opening comeback in more than seven decades: one had to go back to the 1950 New York Yankees, who had overcome a 9-0 deficit, to witness a bigger come-from-behind win on Opening Day. The Jays went 6-4 over their first three series, winning two of three at home against both Texas and the Oakland Athletics, and splitting a four-game set with the New York Yankees at New Yankee Stadium. In that series, both losses were by shutout (while they also pitched one), something that had hardly occured during the previous season. They were hit by the injury bug in those first two weeks, with C Jansen, OF Hernández and SP Hyun-Jin Ryu all being placed on the injured list. A couple of players were standing out, however: Guerrero, who had his second career three-homer game in New York, and closer Jordan Romano, who had saved all six Blue Jays wins up to that point.
The Blue Jays went 14-8 in April, but a more convenient breaking point was May 1st, when they defeated the Houston Astros, 3-2, to complete their first six series at 15-8. They had won five of the six series, and split the other one, the aforementioned four-game set in New York. Contrary to 2021, when they had a huge run differential that should have netted them almost 100 wins, they were not dominating their opponents in spite of their excellent record: their run differential was only +1, as 11 of their 15 wins were by one or two runs only. Romano now had 11 saves, thanks to all the close games, and their top three starting pitchers - Berrios, Gausman and Alek Manoah - had been dominant, combining to go 8-1. Gausman was putting up incredible numbers belying his 2-1 record, including a 41-0 K/W ratio. In addition to Romano, whose ERA was 1.46, Adam Cimber was 4-0 with a save and an ERA of 1.64, and Tim Mayza had an ERA of 1.00. The hitters were not doing so well, with no regular batting higher than .289, but the good sign was that there was production throughout the line-up, with six different players in double figures in RBIs. The two most potent weapons had been Springer, with 16 runs, 6 homers and 12 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 167, and Guerrero, with 12 runs, 6 homers, 16 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 151.
The Blue Jays lost two of three against the Yankees from May 2-4, scoring only 5 runs in the process, to lose a series for the first time. By then, they had the lowest batting average with runners in scoring position of any major league team. Things went from bad to worse as they lost three of four against the Cleveland Guardians and both games of a short series against the Yankees in New York. Their new specialty was putting a number of runners on base in the 1st inning, scoring one or two runs, but leaving runners in scoring position, and then going into full torpor for the remainder of the game, while waiting for their pitchers to cough up a gopher ball at the appropriate time. The strategy was working perfectly, in that their chances or making the postseason were melting by the day. They hit another low point on May 13th when they lost 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays to make it five straight and six of seven losses, and also lost CF Springer to a leg injury. The next day brought good news, though, as both P Ryu and C Jansen returned from early-season injuries and led the team to a 5-1 win, with Jansen slamming his third homer in just four games, shortly after Hernandez had put the Jays ahead with his first homer since his own return from injury a few days earlier. Fortunately, Springer's injury was not serious as he missed just one game. However they lost that final game to Tampa, and once again by shutout, to conclude that dreadful road trip with a record of 2-7.
The Jays bounced back after their poor road trip, by winning 4 of 6 at home, then splitting a two-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals and then sweeping four games from the Los Angeles Angels, the latter two series on the road. That brought the Blue Jays back into the race. It also marked the return of Cavan Biggio, out since the first week of the season. But Guerrero went through a long stretch without an extra-base hit, Hernandez seemed completely lost at the plate, and most of the wins were still of the nail-biting one-run variety, so the machine was still far from clicking on all cylinders. By winning their next game, they finished May at 28-20, still 5 1/2 games back of the Yankees but back in the playoff picture. They then won their next two games, both against the Chicago White Sox, completing a three-game sweep to increase their winning streak to 8. The streak ended on June 3rd with a 9-3 loss to a depleted Minnesota Twins team. They split two series against AL Central teams, and lost C Jansen in the process once again, this time due to a broken bone in his left hand, the result of a hit by pitch. This prompted them to call up their top prospect, C Gabriel Moreno, from the AAA Buffalo Bisons. With a 4-1 win over the Rays on June 30th in the first game of a rare five-game set at the Rogers Centre, they finished the month of June at 43-33, tied with Boston for 2nd place in the AL East, already 12 1/2 games behind the Yankees, who were off to the races, and 2 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay. It was a tight four-team race for the three wild card slots, as the second team in the tight AL Central race was in a virtual tie with the Rays for the final slot. The main story in June had been the struggles of the starting pitchers, with only Manoah and Ross Stripling, who had taken over Ryu's spot after he was lost for the season, giving them a reliably solid outing every five days. The poor starts by Berrios, Gausman and Kikuchi often negated some much better offensive numbers, now that Hernandez and Gurriel were finally contributing and that C Kirk was emerging as one of the best hitters in the majors, hitting for both average and power after claiming possession of the clean-up spot that previously belonged to Hernandez.
The beginning of July was a disaster for the Jays. The month started off with a nice 9-2 win over the Rays on Canada Day, but they were swept in a doubleheader the next day and then dropped the last game of the five-game set. Next was a West Coast trip that was simply abysmal as they went 1-6 against the Mariners and A's to drop to fourth place on July 10th, out of the playoff picture. That day, a play epitomized their poor stretch: a ball that would have completed an inning-ending double play went literally through the glove of 1B Guerrero as the Mariners came back from a 5-1 deficit to win, 6-5. Guerrero and Kirk were voted in as starters in the All-Star Game - Kirk deservedly, but Guerrero a lot less so. They were joined by P Alek Manoah and OF George Springer, both named as reserves. Manoah's selection was justified, but Springer's, like Guerrero, was based more on reputation than actual production during the first half. Finally, it was manager Charlie Montoyo who paid the price for the disappointing first half, as he was fired on July 13th with a record of 46-42. He was replaced on an interim basis by bench coach John Schneider while AAA manager Casey Candaele was promoted from Buffalo to act as bench coach. Springer bowed out of the All-Star Game due to an injury, but Santiago Espinal and Jordan Romano were last-minute additions to the AL roster when José Altuve and Gerrit Cole also opted out.
In their first game after the break, the Blue Jays set a team record for runs by defeating the Boston Red Sox, 28-5. In that game, every starter had at least 2 hits and 2 runs scored, with Gurriel getting 6 hits and Jansen scoring 4 runs while driving in 6. The key play came in the 3rd inning, when Boston CF Jarren Duran lost a ball hit by Raimel Tapia in the lights at Fenway Park and it landed behind him for an inside-the-park grand slam, opening the floodgates. Gausman was the beneficiary of that scoring spree, evening his record at 7-7. That game came after the Jays had won the last three of a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals, and was the start of a three-game sweep. The Cardinals next came to Toronto, deprived of two of their main stars in Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, both unvaccinated, and lost the opener of their series on July 26th, 10-3, making it 7 straight wins for Toronto. That game also marked the return to the booth of veteran broadcaster Buck Martinez, after a successful course of cancer treatment that had started in mid-April. The streak ended on July 27th with a 6-1 loss to the Cards, highlighted by the contributions of elder statesmen Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright. Their late surge allowed them to finish July at 57-45, still well behind the Yankees but in first place in the wild card race. They were busy at the trading deadline, improving the bullpen by acquiring Anthony Bass and Zach Pop from the Miami Marlins, adding another versatile player in Whit Merrifield from the Royals, which allowed them to place Springer on the disabled list to rest an inflamed elbow that had been bothering him for a while, and a starting pitcher in Mitch White, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, which proved to be a very smart addition when Stripling, who had quietly been one of the most valuable members of the pitching staff after stepping into Ryu's starting slot, also had to go on the DL. The Jays had only used seven starters thus far, counting Ryu, and had given up rookie Max Castillo, one of the seven in the Merrifield trade, leaving them very thin in that department. They suffered another injury on August 6th, when Tim Mayza jammed his shoulder on the ground in attempting to make a diving tag at home plate; that temporarily left the team without a single lefthander in its eight-man bullpen.
It looked like the Jays had turned a corner when they won six of seven games in a road trip that took them to New Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park at the end of August, but when they returned home on August 26th, it was to be swept in three games by the Angels. Not only did they play poorly defensively, they were also shut out in the first two games, and then after keeping the score close for a while in the finale, allowed the Angels to run away with an 8-3 win. They then won two of three against the Chicago Cubs to finish the month of August at 13-14, their first below .500. As a result, they were still holding on to the third and final wild card spot, with an overall record of 70-59, but both the Orioles and the Twins were hot on their trail. They started September well with a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road. They followed that by sweeping a Labor Day doubleheader in Baltimore on September 5th, with Bo Bichette in a starring role: he banged out six hits in the two games, frove in seven runs, and had the first three-homer game of his career in the second game. He was finally getting hot after a humdrum season, and if only Guerrero, whose most notable feat was leading the AL in GiDP could get going as well, the Jays had a shot at the first wild card slot, then occupied by the Rays. At least, the two wins had built a small cushion in front of Baltimore, their closest pursuer for the final postseason berth, a cushion that was confirmed when the two teams split the final two games of the series, with Manoah recording win #14 along the way.
The Blue Jays clinched their postseason slot in an anticlimatic way, as they had lost a chance to do so in the final game of a three-game series against the Yankees at the Rogers Centre on September 28th. That 8-3 loss was overshadowed by other happening, mainly the record-tying 61st homer of the year hit by Aaron Judge off Tim Mayza in the 6th inning, and left their magic number at 1. An Orioles loss to the Red Sox on September 29th while the Jays were idle did the trick, although there was still a lot to play for in the final two series, as only by finishing ahead of the other two wild card teams - almost certainly the Rays and the Mariners - could they be guaranteed to play some postseason games at home, something on which they had missed out in their last postseason appearance during the 2020 season and the upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They achieved this sweeping their final home series against the Boston Red Sox and then winning the first of three games in Baltimore to finish the season on October 3rd. Losses by the Rays and Mariners during that span had made it impossible for them to catch the Jays, even if both teams held the tiebreaker in case of an even finsh.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Santiago Espinal, Alejandro Kirk, Alek Manoah, Jordan Romano and George Springer
- AL Gold Glove: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B)
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Alejandro Kirk (C)
- David Adler: "4-man outfield? This team loves it", mlb.com, May 9, 2022. 
- Ethan Diamandas: "Making sense of the Blue Jays’ decision to fire manager Charlie Montoyo", Yahoo! Sports, July 14, 2022. 
- Ian Harrison (Associated Press): "Blue Jays hungry after near-miss of wild card berth in 2021", Yahoo! News, March 30, 2022. 
- Ian Harrison (Associated Press): "Blue Jays use historic opening day comeback to beat Rangers", Yahoo! Sports, April 8, 2022. 
- Gabe Lacques (USA Today): "Toronto Blue Jays fire manager Charlie Montoyo in surprising move", Yahoo! News, July 13, 2022. 
- Keegan Matheson: "Blue Jays clinch a Wild Card spot thanks to O's loss", mlb.com, September 29, 2022. 
- Star Staff: "Blue Jays clinch AL wild-card spot, return to MLB post-season after Orioles loss to Red Sox", Toronto Star, September 29, 2022