ESPN’s Passan: Key for Mariners to beat Blue Jays in playoff series

Oct 5, 2022, 1:54 PM | Updated: 1:59 pm
Mariners Raleigh Bichette...
Bo Bichette of the Blue Jays scores past Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh on July 7, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

We finally know who, where and when the Mariners will play in their first postseason appearance since 2001. So how do they match up with the Blue Jays in the three-game American League wild card series in Toronto this weekend?

“Not great. Have you seen Toronto’s lineup?” answered ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday morning.

OK, well… after 21 years, I guess it wouldn’t feel right if the M’s weren’t the underdog in the postseason.

The Blue Jays certainly do have a tough lineup led by George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, and featuring four players with at least 24 home runs this season. But that doesn’t mean the Mariners have no shot.

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Passan went on to share the way the M’s can make it out of Toronto still alive in the postseason, something that isn’t impossible especially considering Seattle won the season series 5-2 between the two 1977 MLB expansion teams, including a four-game sweep of the Jays in Seattle. The key is Seattle’s bullpen, AKA “Los Bomberos,” playing a big role.

“The Mariners pull this off by getting to (Blue Jays) starting pitching early and by having (manager) Scott Servais deploy the ‘Bomberos’ and match up with that lineup,” he said. “The way that you attack this lineup is by getting swings and misses.”

Easier said than done, especially since leadoff man Springer, who has 24 career homers against the M’s, was the 2017 World Series MVP and has plenty of big postseason moments under his belt from his time with the Houston Astros.

“George Springer is a swing-and-miss guy, you can get him, but let’s also remember when the calendar turns and the playoffs are on, George Springer takes his game to an absolute different level. He’s one of those guys who I really do believe thrives in playoff action,” Passan said.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Blue Jays’ powerful offense.

“Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., you need to strike them out because they are contact guys and when the ball’s in play, there is potential peril at all times,” Passan said. “Teoscar Hernández is a guy who every year is like 40% better than league average and nobody knows who he is. And when you have three guys in Bichette and Springer and Guerrero ahead of him, and when you got Alejandro Kirk, another bat-to-ball guy, and Danny Jansen, who’s a catcher who’s having a great year, and Whit Merrifield, another bat-to-ball guy – like, I keep bringing up this bat-to-ball stuff. I do it because I think it works in the postseason, and the Jays are one of those rare teams that not only doesn’t strike out or has a number of players who don’t strike out, but they hit the ball hard and they hit for power, too.”

That underlines what will make the Blue Jays so tough to beat this weekend.

“Honestly, if I’m putting together, like, secret sauce for the playoffs, my secret sauce, at least offensively, is you make a lot of contact and you hit home runs, and that’s precisely what the Toronto Blue Jays do,” Passan said.

Which is why the Mariners need to jump on Toronto’s starting pitching, which won’t be easy with All-Stars Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah set to start on the mound for the Blue Jays.

“So you better get to Kevin Gausman early, and if he hangs a split, you bang it. You better try to get to Alek Manoah, though truth be told that guy is so good I don’t know if you’re gonna. And you gotta hope that you get to Game 3 because that’s where the starting pitching will drop off for the Blue Jays.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Passan in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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