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The Best Moments from the Blue Jays’ 2018 Season

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Mostly featuring the kids and Justin Smoak walk off homers

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays celebrate Justin Smoak’s walk-off home run to cap a wild 9th inning against the Rays
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into 2018, there was slim optimism that if everything swung right, the Blue Jays could bounce back from their horrid season last year and possibly contend for the second wild card spot. Instead a dead arm, a freak suitcase injury, legal troubles, and months of anemic batting lines gave us one of the 10 worst records in franchise history. However, the wild unpredictability of baseball blessed us with some unbelievable moments this year, and we should choose to remember those while we place the rest of the season deep into the same memory bank the 2013 and 2017 seasons are stored in our brains.


March/April

MLB’s number one prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr did not make his major league debut this year, but that didn’t stop him from earning a top spot in the 2018 highlight reel. In a story most would call too unbelievable to be true, Vladito hit a 2-out walk-off homer in Montreal, of which we will look forward to many, many more of.


April was a glorious month for the Jays. The off season acquisitions were (mostly) contributing, players were dancing in the dugout and the team was pretty darn fun to watch. It took the Jays a couple days to get going after dropping the first two games to the Yankees, but Kevin Pillar ignited a spark into the series when he tagged on an insurance run in Game 3 by stealing home (and another two bases) off Dellin Betances.

After a breakout season in 2017 where he earned his first All Star title, we all hoped last year’s version of Justin Smoak was for real. On Easter Sunday, Smoak temporarily subdued our concerns when he went deep twice against the Yankees, including a go-ahead grand slam off reliever David Robertson.

One of the big stories to track this season was how Aaron Sanchez would fare after missing most of 2017 with blister issues, and in April Sanchez excelled when he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning of a game against the Orioles. The same road trip blessed us with the gem, “what are you going to do now, Buck?” after Josh Donaldson hit a 9th inning grand slam.


Honorable Mention:

Curtis Granderson walked off the Red Sox

Randal Grichuk’s diving catch



May

Still riding their April high, the Jays headed to Cleveland for a double header with a fresh-off-the-disabled-list Josh Donaldson in tow. Donaldson hit two homers in his return, but the story of the day was Yangervis Solarte. Despite smashing his face into the ground, he collected eight hits including his first career grand slam. That was good for a 551 wRC+ and .700 total WPA.

After functioning as a black hole in the lineup last year, Luke Maile had an offensive breakout this season, transforming into “Lukey Barrels”. At one point he even had a hit in 9 consecutive at bats with runners in scoring position. In one home game against Boston, Maile hit his first homer of the year off Chris Sale, then walked off the Red Sox with a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 12th.


A quick trip to Queens for an interleague series with the Mets provided a rare opportunity to watch our pitchers attempt to hit a baseball. Except in JA Happ’s case, he raked. He finished the day with 7 scoreless innings pitched, and collected the same number of hits he allowed (two). He also walked once and scored two runs.

Overall, despite the plentitude of disappointment in May where expectations for the team truly crashed and burned, there was always joy to be found. The last highlight of the month came in the form of designated hitter Kendrys Morales pitching a scoreless 9th inning against the Oakland Athletics.


Honorable Mention:

Jays scored 4 in the 8th inning for comeback win against Mariners

Dwight Smith Jr hit his first major league home run



June

Calling John Axford a national treasure may be a bit of a hyperbole, but it seems suitable. On a road trip to Detroit, Axford became the first pitcher to take the Tigers’ fancy new bullpen cart out. During the two games he arrived to the mound via the bullpen cart, he pitched 3 flawless innings.


June was also the month in which we were truly able to appreciate how terrible the Orioles were. The Jays and Aledmys Diaz rallied to walk off Orioles in extra innings in the series opener, then Maile’s newfound offensive prowess continued two games later giving the team a sweep with a walk-off walk in the 10th.


The Blue Jays came into Houston as the underdogs when they played a series against the defending World Series champs, and would have picked up a series win if it weren’t for an unfortunate 9th inning meltdown. However, this post is about the things we want to remember, so let’s recall that Curtis Granderson hit a foul ball into the roof at Minute Maid Park, then took Justin Verlander deep twice. Randal Grichuk also robbed George Springer of a walk off homer, earning himself a fancy backpack from Seungwhan Oh.


Honorable Mention:

Devon Travis helped Marco Estrada outduel Max Scherzer with a two-run homer, Blue Jays swept the Nationals

Kendrys Morales homered on his birthday for the 4th time

Steve Pearce homered late for a comeback win in Anaheim

Hernandez and Solarte went back-to-back on Father’s Day


July

Kevin Pillar has no shortage of highlight reel worthy catches on his resume, but robbing Nicholas Castellanos of a home run on Canada Day is a strong contender for his most impressive yet.


Through his first three months of the season, J.A. Happ emerged as a strikeout king. He carried a a 3.62 ERA (3.65 FIP), held opposing batters to a .627 OPS, and was in the top 5 of the American League in strikeouts per nine. He was also named an All Star for the first time, and got his first career save pitching in extra innings in the All Star Game.

89th MLB All-Star Game, presented by MasterCard - Red Carpet
J.A. Happ attends the MLB All Star Game with his wife and family in Washington, DC
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The late inning offensive magic made another appearance when the Blue Jays hosted the Mets. Down 6-3, Yangervis Solarte hit a 2-run shot in the 7th, then Lourdes Gurriel Jr hit one of this own in the 8th to give the team a wild comeback win.


Gurriel Jr was on fire in July, as he was awarded rookie of the month, and he also made team history when he passed Tony Fernandez’s record for the longest streak of multi-hit games with 11.


Honorable Mention:

Jays welcomed back Jose Bautista

Grichuk and Solarte hit 2-run shots in the 8th against the Orioles to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead.

Jays rallied in the 9th to hand White Sox blown save



August

The Jays’ annual trip to Seattle to takeover SafeCo Field was chock full of goodness. Pillar had made a miraculous recovery from his collarbone injury, Ryan Borucki was awarded his first career win pitching 8 innings of one run ball, and Marco Estrada took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. Add in some clutch hits and it was one of the strongest series the Blue Jays had all season.

After a nightmare start to the season, Kendrys Morales’ at bats became a must watch in August when he entered a historic home run hitting streak. He hit eight home runs over seven straight games, becoming the first switch-hitter in MLB history to do so.

August ended on a road trip to Miami, where the Jays had another miraculous come from behind victory. After only pushing one run across 8 tough innings from Dan Straily, Devon Travis took a bases loaded walk in the 9th, then Justin smoked a pinch-hit grand slam to fish out a 6-5 win from a 5-1 deficit.


Honorable Mention:

Danny Jansen debuted, collected a hit in his first six straight games

Billy McKinney hit his first major league homer

Thomas Pannone took a no hitter into 7th in his first MLB start, set franchise record



September

The final month of the season was all about the kids. Danny Jansen and Billy McKinney were already up, and they were soon joined by every player on the 40-man roster except for Dalton Pompey.

The Baby Jays made their presence known right off the bat (pun intended) and gave fans hope for the future. McKinney brought some left handed pop and put up a 186 wRC+ through his first 19 games with the Jays.


Rowdy Tellez made his major league debut and became the first player since 1913 to hit 7 doubles in his first 7 games. He also hit his first career home run and had a heartwarming moment with his father.


Additionally, Reese McGuire hit his first major league homer, Sean Reid-Foley and Thomas Pannon had strong outings against the Yankees, and Russell Martin managed his first MLB game.

Last September, the Blue Jays bid adieu to a franchise great in Jose Bautista, and this September, they said farewell to another when John Gibbons’ time as the Blue Jays’ manager came to an end. Gibbons ended his managerial stint with the Jays toting a winning record (793-789) and a 2018 MLB high in ejections (7).


On September 20th, the Blue Jays gave us one of those games we tune in every day hoping for. This is a recurring theme in this post, but the team was down 8-2, going into the 9th. Dwight Smith Jr and Rowdy Tellez manufactured a run, then Danny Jansen hit a 3-run bomb, Lourdes Gurriel Jr followed up with a 2-run shot of his own, then Justin Smoak completed the epic comeback with a walk-off solo shot. It was a game the Blue Jays had a 0.3% chance of winning. Pure baseball bliss.

Poll

What was the best moment from the Blue Jays 2018 season?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Vladdy’s Walk Off Homer
    (64 votes)
  • 5%
    Morales’ Homer Streak
    (12 votes)
  • 2%
    Pillar/Grichuk Rob Home Runs
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Luke Maile Becomes Lukey Barrels
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Smoak’s Walk-Off Grand Slam in Miami
    (9 votes)
  • 36%
    9th Inning Comeback Against the Rays
    (86 votes)
  • 9%
    Gurriel’s Multi-Hit Streak
    (23 votes)
  • 12%
    All the Rookie Debuts
    (29 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (Respond in Comments)
    (4 votes)
235 votes total Vote Now