2022 Toronto Blue Jays
2022 Toronto Blue Jays / Franchise: Toronto Blue Jays / BR Team Page
Managed by Charlie Montoyo
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2022 Toronto Blue Jays came into the season as early favorites, after missing the postseason by the slightest of margins the year before: in a pre-season poll, only the Los Angeles Dodgers finished higher on the list of teams most likely to reach the World Series. This came after a busy off-season that saw both some major departures and also some major acquisitions. Leaving were 2B Marcus Semien and SPs Robbie Ray and Steven Matz, all coming off excellent seasons that had raised their sticker price in free agency beyond what the Blue Jays were willing to pay, but they were all replaced, with Ps Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi coming on board as free agents, and 3B Matt Chapman in a trade with the Oakland Athletics just as spring training was starting. There were a few other more minor additions, including relief pitcher Yimi Garcia, and two left-handed bats to balance a heavily righthanded line-up: C Zack Collins, acquired in a swap of backup catchers for Reese McGuire, and Raimel Tapia, in a trade of outfielders for Randal Grichuk.
The Blue Jays opened their season at home at the Rogers Centre on April 8th, and for the first time since 2019, they were able to do so without any restrictions on attendance. A sell-out crowd of over 45,000 was present to see P Jose Berrios, just re-signed to a large extension, completely fall apart, giving up a homer to the first Texas Rangers batter he faced, Brad Miller, before leaving after retiring just one batter, having given up 4 runs. The deficit reached 7-0 by the 4th inning, when the Jays' much vaunted bats finally came to life. Everyone up and down the line-up contributed: CF George Springer had a pair of walks and scored twice; SS Bo Bichette had a couple of hits and 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. two run-scoring singles; RF Teoscar Hernández hit a three-run homer and scored the go-ahead run that was only allowed after a video review on a double by LF Lourdes Gurriel; DH Alejandro Kirk hit a sacrifice fly; C Danny Jansen homered; and 2B Santiago Espinal hit an RBI double. The bullpen was excellent, and the Blue Jays ended with a 10-8 win for the biggest season-opening comeback in more than seven decades: one had to go back to the 1950 New York Yankees, who had overcome a 9-0 deficit, to witness a bigger come-from-behind win on Opening Day. The Jays went 6-4 over their first three series, winning two of three at home against both Texas and the Oakland Athletics, and splitting a four-game set with the New York Yankees at New Yankee Stadium. In that series, both losses were by shutout (while they also pitched one), something that had hardly occured during the previous season. They were hit by the injury bug in those first two weeks, with C Jansen, OF Hernández and SP Hyun-Jin Ryu all being placed on the injured list. A couple of players were standing out, however: Guerrero, who had his second career three-homer game in New York, and closer Jordan Romano, who had saved all six Blue Jays wins up to that point.
The Blue Jays went 14-8 in April, but a more convenient breaking point was May 1st, when they defeated the Houston Astros, 3-2, to complete their first six series at 15-8. They had won five of the six series, and split the other one, the aforementioned four-game set in New York. Contrary to 2021, when they had a huge run differential that should have netted them almost 100 wins, they were not dominating their opponents in spite of their excellent record: their run differential was only +1, as 11 of their 15 wins were by one or two runs only. Romano now had 11 saves, thanks to all the close games, and their top three starting pitchers - Berrios, Gausman and Alek Manoah - had been dominant, combining to go 8-1. Gausman was putting up incredible numbers belying his 2-1 record, including a 41-0 K/W ratio. In addition to Romano, whose ERA was 1.46, Adam Cimber was 4-0 with a save and an ERA of 1.64, and Tim Mayza had an ERA of 1.00. The hitters were not doing so well, with no regular batting higher than .289, but the good sign was that there was production throughout the line-up, with six different players in double figures in RBIs. The two most potent weapons had been Springer, with 16 runs, 6 homers and 12 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 167, and Guerrero, with 12 runs, 6 homers, 16 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 151.
The Blue Jays lost two of three against the Yankees from May 2-4, scoring only 5 runs in the process, to lose a series for the first time. By then, they had the lowest batting average with runners in scoring position of any major league team. Things went from bad to worse as they lost three of four against the Cleveland Guardians and both games of a short series against the Yankees in New York. Their new specialty was putting a number of runners on base in the 1st inning, scoring one or two runs, but leaving runners in scoring position, and then going into full torpor for the remainder of the game, while waiting for their pitchers to cough up a gopher ball at the appropriate time. The strategy was working perfectly, in that their chances or making the postseason were melting by the day. They hit another low point on May 13th when they lost 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays to make it five straight and six of seven losses, and also lost CF Springer to a leg injury. The next day brought good news, though, as both P Ryu and C Jansen returned from early-season injuries and led the team to a 5-1 win, with Jansen slamming his third homer in just four games, shortly after Hernandez had put the Jays ahead with his first homer since his own return from injury a few days earlier. Fortunately, Springer's injury was not serious as he missed just one game. However they lost that final game to Tampa, and once again by shutout, to conclude that dreadful road trip with a record of 2-7.
The Jays bounced back after their poor road trip, by winning 4 of 6 at home, then splitting a two-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals and then sweeping four games from the Los Angeles Angels, the latter two series on the road. That brought the Blue Jays back into the race. It also marked the return of Cavan Biggio, out since the first week of the season. But Guerrero went through a long stretch without an extra-base hit, Hernandez seemed completely lost at the plate, and most of the wins were still of the nail-biting one-run variety, so the machine was still far from clicking on all cylinders. By winning their next game, they finished May at 28-20, still 5 1/2 games back of the Yankees but back in the playoff picture. They then won their next two games, both against the Chicago White Sox, completing a three-game sweep to increase their winning streak to 8. The streak ended on June 3rd with a 9-3 loss to a depleted Minnesota Twins team. They split two series against AL Central teams, and lost C Jansen in the process once again, this time due to a broken bone in his left hand, the result of a hit by pitch. This prompted them to call up their top prospect, C Gabriel Moreno, from the AAA Buffalo Bisons. With a 4-1 win over the Rays on June 30th in the first game of a rare five-game set at the Rogers Centre, they finished the month of June at 43-33, tied with Boston for 2nd place in the AL East, already 12 1/2 games behind the Yankees, who were off to the races, and 2 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay. It was a tight four-team race for the three wild card slots, as the second team in the tight AL Central race was in a virtual tie with the Rays for the final slot. The main story in June had been the struggles of the starting pitchers, with only Manoah and Ross Stripling, who had taken over Ryu's spot after he was lost for the season, giving them a reliably solid outing every five days. The poor starts by Berrios, Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi often negated some much better offensive numbers, now that Hernandez and Gourriel were finally contributing and that C Kirk was emerging as one of the best hitters in the majors, hitting for both average and power after claiming possession of the clean-up spot that previously belonged to Hernandez.
Awards and Honors
- David Adler: "4-man outfield? This team loves it", mlb.com, May 9, 2022. 
- Ian Harrison (Associated Press): "Blue Jays hungry after near-miss of wild card berth in 2021", Yahoo! News, March 30, 2022. 
- Ian Harrison (Associated Press): "Blue Jays use historic opening day comeback to beat Rangers", Yahoo! Sports, April 8, 2022.