It’s meaningful baseball.
And they’re playing it inside the Rogers Centre for the first time since 1993.
Is there anywhere else you the ball fan would rather be?
You could tell the opener of the New York Yankees three-game series Monday night was a big one with first place at stake: Bob McCown of Sportsnet 590 The Fan actually did his Prime Time Sports Show from the 400 Level in the football TV booth. Back when games started at 7:30, the late Jim Hunt and McCown would do their show in the hotel lobby in centre field, hit the dining room for eats and hit the road.
You know it’s a big series when the celebrities show.
Keeping a Jays fan happy is not easy for his and her hopes, wants and desires are a moving target.
In spring training meaningful September games would have satisfied the populace.
After winning 26 of the first 33 games after the Troy Tulowitzki trade it was first place, an undefeated trek through post-season and spray the champagne after the four-game sweep of the National League champs ... or so some fans thought.
Now, that the Jays are 4-4 eight games into life without Tulowitzki, who may or may not be back no matter how long the Jays season is, the flashback that won’t go away is Tony Fernandez who was upended at Exhibition Stadium by Bill Madlock with 10 games remaining in the 1987 season. The Jays lost the final seven.
So the nightly TOW (topic of worry) changes.
Is closer Roberto Osuna a trouble spot that needs to be addressed? He allowed three home runs from opening day until the end of August in 57 2/3 innings appearing in 55 games. And this month he has given up three in 6 2/3 innings.
A disturbing trend to worry about?
Any ball-three count is something to worry about in an edge-of-the-seat pennant race and for most fans under 30 this is their first roller-coaster ride on a daily basis. The Jays will monitor the situation with the closer and have options in LaTroy Hawkins or Mark Lowe.
Is the fielding a problem? It was on Sunday with three clanks leading to the winning run in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Shortstop Ryan Goins, Brett Cecil and Mark Buehrle had clanks. The shift helped Buehrle retire David Ortiz but left third base unprotected as Dioner Navarro was at the plate and didn’t make like Ken Huckaby.
So Xander Bogaerts was in a 1-on-1 race with Josh Donaldson to the unguarded base. Bogaerts won and scored when Buehrle’s throw was in the dirt.
Kevin Pillar’s throw home to get Pablo Sandoval in the eighth looked on target until it hit the lip of the turf and skipped past Navarro. Instead of why didn’t the Red Sox pinch run for Pablo the question was is this team doomed by bad bounces?
The way that the Jays fielded so poorly on Sunday afternoon was the first sign of September jitters from a team which has provided reels of defensive plays at third, short (from Tulowitzki and Goins), second (Goins and Chad Pennington) and centre field.
Watching MLB Network Monday former big leaguer Tim Flannery repeated something Kirk Gibson told him in 1984 after the Detroit Tigers eliminated Flannery’s San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series.
“Adrenlin or tension causes focus or fear, the quicker you focus, the better off you are,” Flannery said Gibson told him.
Jays hitters, the same Jays hitters who opened the series at Yankee Stadium by scoring five times on the first 26 pitches against Luis Severino on Sept. 11, scored three times on the first 19 pitches from starter Adam Warren Monday night.
Is there any other place you’d rather be than watching the Blue Jays in September?
Consider how five years ago on Sept. 21, lefty starter Marc Rzepczynski pitched 6 1/3 innings as Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Travis Snider homered. The Jays outscored the Seattle Mariners 5-3 before 12,158 as the empty seats won easily over the paying public.
Ten years ago on Sept. 21, Felix Hernandez outpitched David Bush in a 3-2 win. Shea Hillenbrand hit a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth before closer Eddie Guardado retired Gregg Zaun and Reed Johnson with the tying run on first with 21,469 people in the concrete clam.
David Wells pitched a complete game to beat Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez 3-1, 15 years ago on Sept. 21 as Carlos Delgado hit a two-run homer in front of 30,074, some who were not from Western New York. The win moved the Jays to within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Yankees, 2 1/2 behind the Oakland A’s in the wild card.
And 20 years ago (on Sept. 26) Baltimore Orioles Mike Mussina pitched a complete-game five-hitter to blank Pat Hentgen and the Jays 5-0, before 35,414. The loss dropped the last-place Jays 27 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox.
Take your pick. Watching Rzepczynski and Wells winning, Bush or Hentgen losing?
Or watching David Price in front of a full house.