With the Toronto Blue Jays now back in the MLB post-season for the first time since 2016 thanks to an emerging group of young stars, we here at United Sport and Cycle look back at the Top 5 playoff runs in Jays history!
5. 1985- First Playoff Appearance
Founded in 1977, it took the Blue Jays eight seasons to make their first-ever appearance in the post-season. However, it proved to be well worth the wait!
Buoyed by strong pitching from future Hall-of-Famers Tom Henke and Dave Stieb plus strong overall team defense, the Jays finished with the second-best record in all of baseball and went all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS before falling to that year's eventual World Series champs, the Kansas City Royals.
The Jays actually had a chance to advance to the World Series themselves, but squandered a 3-1 series league in the first year that Major League Baseball extended the Championship Series in both leagues from five to seven games. Still, it was a sign of things to come for the Jays and their fans in Toronto!
4. 1991- Start of Something Great
After close calls in 1985 and again in 1989, the Blue Jays looked ready to take the next step in 1991. Nearly all the core pieces for a championship run were in place, with pitchers Pat Hentgen and David Wells joining an already-elite bullpen and future legends like Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar making plenty of noise up front.
However, it still wasn't to be for the Jays. Although they won the American League East with a shining 91-71 record, Toronto was easily cast aside by the eventual World Series Minnesota Twins four games to one in the ALCS. Despite the setback, everyone around the baseball world knew a championship was right around the corner- it was just a matter of time before they won it all!
3. 2015- The Bat Flip
Jumping ahead to the present, Toronto's success in the early 90s would be contrasted by a playoff drought like few others in pro sports. It would take 22 years for the Jays just to make the post-season after their triumphs in 1992 and 1993 (but more on that shortly). However, they arguably made up for lost time with a run to the ALCS in 2015 that included an epic, nasty feud with the Texas Rangers featuring...
Yes, the bat flip! A heated rivalry that had percolated all series between Jays star slugger Jose Bautista and Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor finally erupted late in Game 5 of the ALDS, with a moment that instantly became a classic piece of film in both Jays and baseball history. Tied 3-3 in the 7th inning, Bautista hit a three-run homer that gave Toronto life in a series they had struggled to take over. Bautista followed his moonshot up with the now-iconic "flip"- not-so-subtly directed at Odor, who had been a thorn in his and Toronto's side all season.
The Jays would go on to win the series three games to two, but the story didn't end there; Odor and Bautista would literally exchange blows the very next year during a regular-season rematch between Toronto and Texas, leading to an all-out brawl on the field. Odor would be hit with a 7-game suspension, just one of several handed out as a result. While the 2015 push did not lead to a championship, it was a reminder of what the city had so dearly missed for over two decades.
2. 1992- First Championship
It's hard not to headline a list of greatest Jays playoff appearances without its two title runs appearing at the very top. Thanks to another highlight-reel moment, one clearly stands atop the other as the most memorable in team history- but that doesn't make the first any less sweet!
Toronto would finally realize its potential as a ball club, capturing the 1992 World Series four games to two. Despite not going the distance, the 96-66 Jays were pushed to the limit by the upstart Atlanta Braves, who had gone from the worst team in the NL West in 1990 to back-to-back division winners by 1992.
Game 6 itself featured its fair share of drama, with 11 total innings needed before Toronto and relief pitcher Mike Timlin finally retired Atlanta's Otis Nixon on a bunt attempt with the tying runner at third base. It was the first time a Canadian team had ever won the World Series- and as it turned out, a second wasn't far off...
1. The Walk-Off!
Yes, it was a moment unlike few others in sport- a time when an athlete transcended greatness to become a living, breathing legend. Joining iconic calls like the Miracle on Ice, Paul Henderson's Summit Series goal, and The Immaculate Reception, Blue Jays first baseman Joe Carter entered the annals of history when he became just the second player ever to clinch a World Series with a walk-off home run.
However, the Blue Jays arguably never should have been in a position for Carter to end it the way he did in the first place; holding a commanding 5-1 lead over the Philadelphia Phillies late in Game 6 of the World Series, it was only a 7th inning collapse by Toronto that set the stage for one of baseball's greatest moments. Had the Jays bullpen been able to close things out, the game would have ended in a less dramatic- re: boring- fashion. Thank goodness it didn't!