The Toronto Blue Jays entered a must-win game at Rogers Centre on Wednesday with guns blazing, starting off with a 4-0 lead over the New York Yankees and looking like a victory should have never been in doubt.
Though the Yankees crawled back to even the score at 5-5, that only set up more dramatics as Bo Bichette hit the go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to push the Blue Jays to victory.
North of the border the story is clear: The Blue Jays kept their post-season hopes alive largely thanks to Bichette's heroics.
Head a little south, into the Eastern part of the United States, and the narrative changes. Instead of a Blue Jays triumph, it's a Yankees failure, and Gerrit Cole is to blame.
We’ve rounded up some takes to give you a taste of how things look south of the border. Here’s a closer look at what both national U.S. media and Yankees beat reporters are saying about the Blue Jays.
This article by NJ.com's Bob Klapisch takes us straight to the point. Not only does he lament Cole's so-so performance where he allowed five runs in six innings, he questions the entirety of the four-time All-Star's contract.
Why does this nagging doubt keep hovering over Gerrit Cole, the fastball machine who was supposed to be immune to slumps? Cole is the Yankees’ best pitcher – of that there is no debate – but with the playoffs just around the corner he’s less reliable now than any point since signing that $324 million contract. If you’re a Yankees’ fan freaking out, imagine how the front office is feeling.
Cole didn’t have a terrible game against the Blue Jays Wednesday night. He wasn’t involved in the decision as the Yankees dropped a 6-5 heartbreaker. It tightened the wild card race all over again, so if you’re into late-September drama, there’s that.
But here’s the thing: Cole again failed to deliver a quality start, allowing five earned runs in six innings. The Yankees are trying suppress any outward sign of concern, but they need better from him. They need swing-and-miss dominance and the statement it makes in the opposing dugout. They need Cole to be invincible, not pitch like a No. 5 starter, not now. Not this late in September.
He did give credit where it's due to the Blue Jays, though.
(Cole is) rushing to the plate, over-accelerating his arm, hence the regression of what really makes Cole special. It’s not just control, it’s control within the strike zone. But that shouldn’t matter to a heat merchant, right? Cole typically throws hard enough to generate whiffs whenever, wherever. Except the Blue Jays aren’t your typical adversary. They feast on pitchers who think they can conquer with fastballs only.
Come at us, bro was the essence of Toronto’s challenge to Cole. And he fell right into the trap. Four of his first six pitches were fastballs 97 mph and up. Result? The Jays took an immediate 2-0 lead, thanks to George Springer’s leadoff double and Marcus Semien’s two-run HR.
In YES Network's post-game show, analyst John Flaherty mentions the various storylines coming out of the game, including Bichette's two home runs, but quickly jumps to what he felt stood out most. Of course, it was Cole.
"You have to win the games that he starts. He's got to be an ace. And when you're down 4-0 after three innings, you're down 2-0 after two batters in this game. And I can't quite figure out Garrett Cole tonight. I mean, he was challenging the Blue Jays with his fastball. We always praise him for making adjustments during the game, I don't know what he was thinking, Jackie. It took him three or four innings to go to the changeup a little bit more on off-speed. He was getting beat up with the fastball."
Watch it for yourself:
ESPN's Senior MLB Writer David Schoenfield gave the Blue Jays their due, highlighting Bichette's performance and the high-flying offence that could thrill in the postseason, instead of focusing on Cole and the Yankees' shortcomings.
Bichette is one of the rising young stars for the Blue Jays, but has played in the shadow of MVP candidates Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien. He had already homered off Cole in the third inning, and after taking a 96-mph sinker low for ball one, he drove a 94-mph sinker on the insider corner to right-center, just clearing the scoreboard for the 6-5 lead -- an incredible display of bat speed to drive that pitch to the opposite field. Bichette exploded around the basepaths, slapping his chest and raising his arm as he rounded third base and eventually received a curtain call from the Blue Jays' fans.
I think most hardcore baseball fans who don't root for the Yankees or Red Sox would prefer to see the Blue Jays in the playoffs. TV executives, not so much. It's not just that we've seen the Yankees and Red Sox in the postseason so much over the decades -- and the Red Sox just won it all three years ago. It's simply that the Blue Jays are fun, imposing and, frankly, would be the more entertaining team to watch in October.
They have Guerrero. They have Semien, who notched his 44th home run with a first-inning blast off Cole, to set the single-season record for home runs by a primary second baseman, breaking Davey Johnson's record of 43 for the 1973 Braves. They have Bichette, who is hitting .295 with 28 home runs and 101 RBIs, meaning he and Semien became the first second base/shortstop combination with 100 RBIs in the same season since Bobby Doerr and Vern Stephens of the 1950 Red Sox. They have George Springer and the joyful Teoscar Hernandez. They have the likely Cy Young winner now in Robbie Ray (Cole's second bad start in three outings all but wraps it up for Ray). They have the home run jacket, adorned on the back with logos of all the countries represented on the team's multicultural roster and awarded in the dugout after each home run. They have Romano, the closer who is straight out of the 1980s with his moustache. They have those baby blue uniforms they wore on Wednesday, another relic of the '80s.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) September 30, 2021
The New York Post's front page cover is all about Bichette, but ultimately Dan Martin's game column is about the Yankees missing an opportunity with Cole pitching.
Just when it seemed like the Yankees were about to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AL wild-card pack, they took a step back with their ace on the mound.
They came all the way back from an early deficit, shaking off a rough start by Gerrit Cole, before their reliable bullpen finally faltered against Toronto’s tough lineup Wednesday in a 6-5 loss at Rogers Centre.
Bo Bichette took Clay Holmes deep to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning of a tie game and the Yankees couldn’t rally in the ninth.
The defeat snapped the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak, and with the Red Sox’s win over Baltimore, the Yankees’ lead for the top wild-card spot was cut to one game with four to play.
The Athletic's Yankees writer Lindsey Adler started her piece with a subtle shot at the trigger-happy Blue Jays, and also focused on Cole's struggles.
In an important battle of the Blue Jays versus Gerrit Cole’s fastball on Wednesday night, Toronto’s swing-happy tendencies won out.
The Blue Jays badly needed to beat Cole and the Yankees to keep their wild-card contention alive, and they took a first inning 2-0 lead while showing their game plan for the evening was to lean on their signature aggressiveness, which is what makes them such a dangerous offensive team. The Blue Jays swing often, they swing early, and they swing at fastballs. Their approach worked: They didn’t give Cole any time to settle into his outing or fastball command before attacking his fastball, the foundation of his arsenal.
Much like Schoenfield, she gave Robbie Ray the nod for AL Cy Young after Cole's lacklustre performance.
The Yankees face a daunting challenge in their final game against the Blue Jays this season in facing left-hander Robbie Ray, who is likely to edge out Cole in the AL Cy Young race after Wednesday night’s outing.