Whit Merrifield drives home the winner in 13th for the Blue Jays

Whit Merrifield drives home the winner in 13th for the Blue Jays

TORONTO – A win is a win. The Blue Jays have grabbed this idea with both hands, and they’re willing to stretch it until it explodes.

Saturday’s win over the Red Sox, 4-3 in 13 innings, lacked all the beauty, but if you look at the AL Wild Card standings, there’s no column for that. Whit Merrifield’s home run to cap the winning streak was a fitting way to end this game, but the Blue Jays are staring at a 13-game season now. There’s no time to debrief, just crash forward.

The Blue Jays have asked their pitching staff to walk on water all season, and they’ve done it successfully, shoving the offense onto weary shoulders in duffel bags. Saturday was Chris Bassett’s turn, and the veteran nailed it. But as the ancient text itself says, the crime was not there to back it up. After the win, a confident Bassett remained firmly behind him.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about hitting. We’re the best pitching staff in the major leagues, and we play the best defense in the major leagues,” Bassett said. I think the hitting aspect of it all and the story of our hitters not being great is just skewed.

“That’s huge. I won the series out of the chute with the first two, and it was tough to lose that game either way,” head coach John Schneider said. “It’s going to be tough to come back tomorrow. With where we are, guys will be ready for it, but you have to take breaks. You need breaks sometimes, especially in games like this, and today we got them.

With so much riding over the next couple of weeks, the “what if” game comes naturally.

Going back to 2021, the Blue Jays had the best offense in baseball and one of the best in their franchise history. They comfortably led baseball with a team OPS of .796 and hit a league-best 262 home runs, 21 more than the second-place team. This lineup missed the playoffs, failed on the final day of the season, and Toronto cannot allow history to repeat itself.

This is the playoff rotation, and if we don’t get there, we’ll spend the next decade using it as a reference point. “If only this 2029 offense had that amazing rotation for 2023…”

Toronto’s offense has been achieved without a doubt. This group ranks 16th in the major leagues in runs scored and has not reached as much power as it could have. But Bassett remains one of his teammates’ most vocal supporters this season for a reason.

Bassett knows how things go in October, too. He’s been to the postseason with the A’s and Mets and fully believes — you can feel it — that this team can do something special.

“If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have a chance. If you don’t play defense, you don’t have a chance. We have both,” Bassett said. “Get the right hitters hot at the right time and that’s running. It’s literally a three- or four-week stretch that hitters can carry.

It’s been a long time coming for a squad with this much talent. And if that day comes, the entire staff will be relieved to see the offense grab the handle and help pull this thing off.

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