How awesome was this Blue Jays season? Well, it would’ve been better if they were still playing, but come on. We’ve gotta admit that it sure was fun while it lasted. And stressful. And heartbreaking in the end. But mostly fun. Just because this ballclub fell one Rafael Dolis blown save short of a Wild Card spot doesn’t make this regular season any less memorable.
The pain of Sunday’s elimination from playoff contention is still very fresh. Watching the Red Sox effectively end our season two pitches after the game was put up on the jumbotron was absolutely gutwrenching. Part of the reason why I’ve decided to put together this Friday Five less than a week into the offseason is to remind myself and all of you of the many good times we had this summer watching the Jays. Or at least that’s what I tell myself as I watch other teams play postseason games that I can hardly get myself to care about. I’m sure none of these will be new to you, but it’s nice getting to look back at some of the most electric moments this ballclub gave us.
5. Alek Manoah’s lights-out debut at Yankee Stadium
The rise of Alek Manoah might be my favourite storyline from this Blue Jays season. This guy was a high-ranked prospect in the farm system, but NEVER did we expect him to do what he did for this ballclub this year. A lot of fans were criticizing the Jays when they called him up to make his debut in May, citing that he’d only pitched 50 professional innings and he’s gonna get ruined being brought up to the Majors too soon, but those people were dead wrong.
Alek Manoah is the second @BlueJays pitcher to post 6+ scoreless IP in his MLB debut.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 27, 2021
I was hyped to see Manoah make his Jay-but, and boy did he live up to expectations and beyond. If you were about to take the mound for the first time ever as a big leaguer, you probably wouldn’t want it to be at Yankee Stadium going up against two Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, but Manoah wasn’t just unfazed in his debut, he thrived. With momma Manoah in the stands, the four-year Mountaineer went out there and delivered a gem: no runs, two hits, two walks and seven punchies through six innings. According to win probability added (WPA) it was his most valuable single start all season. HOW’S THAT FOR YOUR FIRST BIG LEAGUE GAME?!
Manoah’s rookie campaign was good as it gets as he went 9-2, finished the season with a 3.22 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, averaging well over a strikeout per inning across 20 starts. He probably won’t get it, but dammit he should win the AL Rookie of the Year award. He’d be a shoo-in if only he had more innings. I can’t wait to see this stud light it up on the mound for years to come.
4. George Springer’s three-run TANK to beat the Red Sox
The Jays had so many clutch moments this season, including a bunch from this man right here. We didn’t get to see a full healthy season of George Springer, but he was a force to be reckoned with at the plate when healthy. This is my favourite Springer dinger as a Jay to date, and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial point in the ballgame against less-liked team. The Blue Jays had just split the doubleheader against the Sox, and were looking to get a big series win to close off the first true homestand of the year. They found themselves down a pair late, but that was before Springer came up to bat with a pair on base in the eighth inning. What a bomb.
That week had been the beginning of the Jays’ chase for a playoff spot, and this win carried by Springer’s homer was a sign that this team has what it takes to compete with the big boys and make a serious run. It was great to see the hundred-and-fifty million dollar man come up clutch to take down the Red Sox.
3. Vladdy and the boys take on the All-Star Game
Need a reminder of how good this Jays lineup was this season? How about the fact that they had FOUR All-Stars in their starting nine. Seeing Vladdy Jr., Marcus Semien, Teoscar Hernandez, and Bo Bichette rep the Jays at the Midsummer Classic in Coors Field was so awesome. It was a sick brag as to how good and young this ballclub is, getting to show off our stacked offense on such a big stage. And take in our four All-Stars didn’t even include the Cy Young favourite in Ray.
We couldn't be prouder ⭐️
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 14, 2021
Not only did the Blue Jays show up but they made their mark on the Midsummer Classic at Coors Field. Three starters in the AL lineup, and delivered three hits, three runs, and three rbi for the Junior Circuit squad.
— MLB (@MLB) July 14, 2021
But the most memorable moment from this memorable moment was no-doubt Vladdy’s moonshot that went 468 feet. Four-hundred-and-sixty-eight. The longest PLAKATA of Vladito’s career won him the All-Star Game MVP, culminating what was a great night for this fanbase.
2. The first game back at the Rogers Centre
As soon as they announced when the Jays would be coming back to the Rogers Centre this season I had this day circled on my calendar. After 700 days of not getting to watch this team live, I absolutely had to be there for the return. And it’s a game I’m gonna remember forever.
It felt surreal stepping foot back into the concrete jungle this ballclub calls home. A weird feeling of not having been there in forever but also like I had never left. It felt cathartic laying my eyes on the turf for the first time in ages, and it just kept getting better and better.
HANDS DOWN, the BEST way to end a game!
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 31, 2021
The whole night was incredible. Not only did it start with a rush of being back at the Rogers Centre again, as well as the pre-game ceremonies and getting to see the whole squad in the new blues, but the ending was also one of the most electric ways to end a ballgame you could ever draw up. I lost my mind when Espinal made that barehanded grab to record the final out, and it was such a great reminder for how gahdamn great it is to watch this ballclub apart of such a rockin’ atmosphere.
1. The INSANE walk-off comeback vs. the A’s
You could argue that either one of the top two could hold the #1 spot on this list. The Jays’ first game back at the Rogers Centre had more meaning, but this ballgame was so crazy that it had to be the best moment of the season in my opinion. It was simply the best Blue Jays game in the last five years. Down six runs heading into the eight inning, the offense rallies and gets the bases loaded for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. What does the pineapple-haired man do? HIT A GRAND SALAMI TO TIE THE BALLGAME.
10pm in Toronto sounds GRAND 🍍 pic.twitter.com/qjDuCo2KgV
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 4, 2021
Everyone at the Rogers Centre lost their mind when Lourdes squared the game at eights, and even that moment alone is worthy of a top-five selection. But then the Jays found themselves trailing again heading into the final half-inning and what happens? WALKOFF WHAMMY MARCUS SEMIEN!!!!!
I am speechless.
Down 8-2, score 6 in the eight. Down 10-8, walkoff 3-run slam. I can’t believe this is real life. WOW!!!
— Nick Reid (@Nick1ausReid) September 4, 2021
I had already lost my voice at this point in the night, but the three-run blast from Semien against his former team was worth the strain on my vocal chords. What’s crazy about both the game-tying slam and the walkoff blast is that you just knew they were gonna happen. There was some magic juju goin on in the dome that night that wouldn’t let this team lose.
This game was huge not only for what happened within those nine innings but also because it kicked off the Jays’ biggest hot streak of the season. They couldn’t lose at the beginning of September and it brought them allllll the way back into the Wild Card hunt. This was one of the best games I have ever been to and this insane comeback is well-deserving of the best moment of this rollercoaster of a season for the Toronto Blue Jays.