Opinion | The Blue Jays’ series of the year begins with faith, in themselves and in the power of the crowd.

The RAWRRR !!! from the crowd.

The rattle and buzz of baseball moments was magnified: the heavy hit of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s change into the bullpen catcher’s glove, warming up; click of a batter hitting the batting donut of his bat in the circle of the deck; The commotion around a stolen base, the ball hits the sweep glove a tick after the runner slides headlong into the bag second.

the thrum of anticipation, of fans and musicians, like the trembling of a tuning fork through the giant speakers of a rock concert.

Aw … shaddup Rosie.

But seriously, there hasn’t been a night like this, a game like this, at the Rogers Center since… oh… October 14, 2015, and the bat flip was heard all over the world. Iconography of Joey Bats in the annals of the Blue Jays: three-run homer in the seventh inning of a must-play game in the American League Division Series against the Rangers. Ta-ta Texas.

The last time something went perfectly well for the Blue Jays.

Somewhat less than the 30,000 maximum capacity in the stands tonight, expanded, as of Tuesday, but it remains the largest gathering of humans for a sporting event in the province in the time of COVID. Clearly, many are still not entirely comfortable with the concept of closeness, but the audience spread to the fifth floor and beyond third base for the first time in two years. It is also the first time in two years that the New York Yankees have moved to Toronto.

A packed press booth, even with traveling reporters. So much strangeness of the familiar.

Not absolute has to on it, with the Pinstripes in town, pitching a three-game series in the final week of a grueling regular season that could, could, have a fatal impact on the wild-card race in the AL East. On a beautiful September afternoon, with the roof open and just a breath of autumn in the air.

Lusty boos when DJ LeMahieu came to the plate to open the first inning. And that was also a resonant baseball sound. The real thing, you know

Blue Jay Vladimir Guerrero Jr. connects early in Game 1 of Tuesday night's series against the Yankees at the Rogers Center, where capacity has expanded to 30,000.

You don’t really need to order a bossy boot marker: MAKE A NOISE.

“I think it’s going to be amazing,” manager Charlie Montoyo had predicted before the game, which didn’t require much guessing. “Last year when we were looking for the playoffs and no one was there, that’s the one thing we miss: the fans.

Toronto fans deserve us here right now. It’s great.”

And vice versa.

Baseball has been back for quite some time. And, of course, the Blue Jays, as Montoyo recalled, made the postseason shattered last year, albeit for about a minute and a half. Yet this: an intense wild-card feud between the Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners, that feels almost unprecedented. Which is not true, in fact. Toronto had to win Game 162 in Boston in 2016 to clinch the wild card against Baltimore.

What we remember and what we forget.

But that was another time, a team that has no connection to this. Mark Shapiro was simply a Cleveland braggart and Ross Atkins was primarily the general manager who was not Alex Anthopoulos.

So, sure, Atkins might gloat a bit, if he were the kind to gloat, in his pre-series conclave with local baseball and cognoscenti correspondents. After all, this is the team he has built. Give him a solid punch for that, even though Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was already on the Double-A side of the acquisitions book.

Atkins, who has gotten better at this scrum thing these six years, while still leaning toward spiraling atkins-isms, admitted Monday’s day off was a pittance, far from baseball. “Yesterday was a long day. I couldn’t be more excited about today, being here and the work that has been done on this by so many different people and at so many different levels.”

He was asked – because we cadre of baseball journalists can be fundamentally dumb (though I think this question was raised by a buzzer on the television news side) – if the Blue Jays needed to take at least two out of three. . That math doesn’t compute. Two out of three would be excellent; a sweep would be great, but nothing is done yet. Toronto could suffer three losses and still be in the mix Sunday afternoon, or whatever playoff game is required.

“Really, having been in baseball my whole life, I think once you start going beyond a pitch and a game, you’re in trouble,” Atkins responded with commendable patience. “So we’ll focus on one release at a time and one game at a time, and we’ll go from there.”

Now where have we heard that before? One game at a time. Of course this is the comment type U.S induce often.

Someone else pointed out that the Blue Jays have the best record in baseball this season against winning teams. Which, no, it’s not even true. The Houston Astros have the highest winning percentage against teams above .500. Toronto is seventh on that list, behind the Yankees.

Baseball has too many stupid statistics.

Atkins spluttered a bit, clearly doubting the claim, because it’s his job to know these things and the Blue Jays are in love with data. “People talk about performance … there is no such thing as being up to the task.” He was referring to the occasion. “Resort to preparation. I think these guys embrace the stage and embrace challenges exceptionally well. But our hope is that in the end we play exceptionally well against everyone. “

Atkins will put his faith in his carefully educated and assembled players, as they have faith in each other.

“One of the things we are most proud of today is that even since the beginning of the year, our pitching is better, our defense is better, our offense is deeper and now we are playing games that will determine what ultimately matters. : win and get to the playoffs, and delve into the playoffs. So I feel really good about the path this team is on this year and certainly the path it is on for years to come. “

Going into this confrontation with the Yankees, this is what these Blue Jays of 2021 were all about: winners of 10 of their last 16 games; 18-7 in September for a .720 winning percentage, the highest in the American League this month; leading the majors with 248 home runs; baseball’s leader in team slugging and OPS; second in team batting average; second in hits; second in extrabase hits; third in careers; fourth in on-base percentage; with momentous seasons by Guerrero, Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernández and Robbie Ray.

And yet it all comes down to this on the last Tuesday of the regular season: a goddamn game out of a wild-card spot.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and current affairs for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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