Article Written by Craig Borden (@Craigers1221)
The Toronto Blue Jays have been hardly relevant this season and have not had a winning record since April. Jays fans have responded as the game day attendance dropped like a stone from the sky. This is understandable and it has been hard to watch for even the most hardcore of Blue Jays fans. The old saying is that it is most often the darkest before the dawn. While watching the Blue Jays game Thursday evening, I could not help but hear these words dancing in my head as the Jays offense torched the bullpen of the Rays.
The Blue Jays tagged the Tampa Bay Rays pen for 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th to cap off an incredible victory. The Jays were down 8-2 heading into the final frame, but the young players had different plans on how this game was going to turn out. Leading off the attack was Dwight Smith Jr. who doubled. Rowdy Tellez followed with a double of his own that scored Smith. After Jonathan Davis was hit by a pitch, Danny Jansen powered up the offense. Jansen destroyed a 1-2 pitch over the left field bullpen to put the Jays within striking distance. Now just trailing by a pair of runs, Kendrys Morales pinched hit for Anthony Alford and singled on a bloop over the infield. This set the stage for one of the hottest Blue Jay hitters - Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Gurriel hit a towering drive that landed in the Jays bullpen to tie up the game at 8.
The improbable had happened and I was sitting on the edge of my seat. These talented youngsters had gotten the Blue Jays right back into this game in the final frame. This is something unheard of and almost something that you would have happened in a movie than real life. The Jays flipped the script from facing a certain loss and put themselves in position to take the win. That is exactly what Justin Smoak had in mind. One of the lone veterans in the lineup Thursday night and the 9th hitter to come to the plate in the inning for the Jays. Smoak got a first-pitch changeup and rocked it over the right field wall to cap the comeback in walk-off fashion.
As the celebration ensued I couldn’t help but think to myself how significant this moment could be. This year's roster has been an endless line of players being thrown into games for the Jays. The 40-man roster has only a few players that started the season. This change over has been mostly due to the talents in the Minor Leagues forcing their way onto the roster. Last night it felt like everything finally fell into place. It felt like a changing of the guard moment. The ignition has been started on the Jays’ future and this brand new muscle car is ready to burst off the line.
This feels like the beginning of something special as the young players have become big leaguers. Their confidence has been building over the past weeks and on 9/20/2018 they know they're going to be Toronto Blue Jays and they are hungry to win as they have throughout the Minor Leagues. These guys are ready to contribute and have made it fun to watch again. The best part of this whole thing is that this is only the beginning. The Jays have one of the best Minor League Systems in baseball right now and have possibly one of the best talents in all of baseball just inches away from making a big league debut.
The Blue Jays are in the same spot as some of the most recently successful teams. They are in that stage where the Astros, Cubs, and Yankees were after some rough seasons. They put in the hard work to rebuild their Minor League systems and have reaped the benefits since. The Yankees rebuilt their Major League team in what felt like record time. The Blue Jays have a chance to be relevant in 2019 if these youngsters perform as they have been through the month of September. If they continue to trend upward with their prospects like they have been, the Blue Jays could beat the Yankees’ turnaround by taking just 3 years to get back to the playoffs. Mark down 9/20/18 as the day the newest era of Toronto Blue Jays baseball was born.
Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)