Last week, the Toronto Blue Jays won their first series in a month against the New York Yankees.
Before that win, the last series the Blue Jays took was July 27-29 at home against Detroit. Since then, the Jays have been swept by the Mariners, Rays, and Tigers, and lost two games to the Orioles (the third was rained out). They have dropped series to the Yankees, White Sox, and Rangers, and split a four-game run with Oakland. Between series wins, Toronto has gone 9-21.
The Yankees and the Orioles are currently tied(!) for first place in the AL East. Tampa Bay is a game and a half behind.
For a team in or on the edge of contention, it is often difficult to see the point of wins that don’t mean something. This small handful of wins did not catapult the Jays over another team in the standings. They do not ensure a wider lead over a challenging team in a pennant race. On their own, they didn’t even help the Blue Jays get out of last place — and we’ve since been thrashed by the O’s two games in a row.
Emotions ran high during the Yankees-Blue Jays series. It’s easy to hate the Yankees, but it’s plenty easy for them to hate us, too, especially when we’re spoiling their division lead and allowing Baltimore to creep up. But the Yankees, at least, had something tangible to play for. The postseason is approaching, and as everyone loves to say, every game matters. So why did it feel so great for Jays fans, with nothing left to play for, to win?
After that first win against the Yankees, Jays fans were disproportionately euphoric. When your team suffers a terrible seven-game losing streak and the confirmed loss of Jose Bautista for the rest of the season (gahhhh!), you take whatever you can get — and what we got was an 8-7 win at Yankee Stadium, coming back from a 6-3 deficit, taking the lead in the top of the 9th, surrendering the tying run in the bottom half of the frame, and winning it narrowly in eleven innings in a glorious, wonderful display of baserunning.
A win like that atop the division, ten games ahead of your challenger, is probably pretty cool. A win like that after hitting rock bottom multiple times in a month, having nothing left to love, and finally getting something to be happy about? It’s thrilling. It’s wonderful. Everyone has something to be joyful about. It’s actually amazing how relieving it felt — not even to rub it in the faces of the losing team (although I’ll admit there was plenty of that going on on Twitter) but just to revel in something happy.
Of course, the Blue Jays have now lost four in a row once more, the last two shutouts to the Orioles (and 5.2 perfect innings by Joe effing Saunders). The team is back to its depressing 2012 ways. But every once in a while, we get these flashes of good baseball again — just enough to erase the double-digit drubbings, and enough to remember why we watch 162 games a year in the first place. The team is fifteen games under .500, and running out a laughable lineup every day — but with nothing left to play for, sometimes that’s when the wins, as scarce as they are, feel so great.