The Blue Jays and Yankees turned the AL East into a two horse race long ago, and it’s been easy to put the blinders on. The potential of an AL East pennant is such an unfamiliar experience, folk tale many of us have heard but never seen, but the Blue Jays have quickly put themselves in a position to leapfrog into another pivotal position.
First place in the American League is just 1.0 game away as the Blue Jays enter play this afternoon, and they could get a helping hand from old friend Matt Boyd, who starts for the Detroit Tigers tonight at Comerica Park against the Kansas City Royals. After a month of looking down at the Yankees, watching them like a mosquito buzzing closer and retreating with regularity, it’s time to look up at the Royals.
Toronto and Kansas City are tied in narrative for two reasons. As the Blue Jays continue to surprise the MLB market, especially south of the border, many have copy-and-pasted their name into 2014 stories about the Kansas City Royals, smiled, and hit publish. The similarities between the 2014 Royals and 2015 Jays are few and far between, but hey, lets not turn our noses up at good press!
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The two clubs also found themselves nearing a boiling point earlier in the season, exchanging beanballs which resulted in the suspension of Aaron Sanchez and manager John Gibbons. It also led to the Twitter outburst of Yordano Ventura directed at Jose Bautista, which was the equivalent of a newborn kitten hissing at a grizzly bear. There’s a history here, and that will only fuel this late-season race.
Earning the home field advantage throughout the playoffs could also pay huge dividends for the Jays, even if it results in just one more game being played at the Rogers Centre. The Jays own a .500 record on the road (37-37), but have been downright dominant at home with a 48-25 record. That’s not by accident.
Toronto’s bats also profile better in the ‘Dome, a notorious launching pad. Blue Jays defenders understand the unique turf better than their opponents, too, but it may benefit R.A. Dickey more than any player on the roster.
Dickey has excelled at home recently, and the option to control his environment would be a great advantage. If given the choice between Dickey’s knuckleball floating through a cold and blustery October day or operating in a domed environment, the decision is easy.
There’s more at play here than bragging rights in the American League. Home field advantage truly is an advantage, and with the Royals stumbling to a 4-6 record over their last 10 games, the Blue Jays are in the perfect position to reach out and grab it.