The Toronto Blue Jays have woken up to some nice things over the past few days. Saturday morning, following a complicated equation of games from the night before, the Blue Jays awoke to learn they’d clinched a playoff spot. This morning’s surprise is that the Blue Jays have awoken as the first place team in the American League.
Toronto’s 4-3 record over the Kansas City Royals gives them the tiebreaker advantage, so we really should have been treating “1.0 game back” as a dead heat all along. This is a great example of how meaningful every game can be throughout the stretch of a season, despite how easily some can get bulked in to the dog days of summer.
After finishing up their series against the Cleveland Indians and taking care of a make-up game against the Chicago Cubs, the Royals close out their season with series against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. With Minnesota hunting down the second wild card spot that final series could be challenging, but every one in September and October seems to be.
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The prize here, of course, is home field advantage for the Blue Jays throughout the playoffs. This becomes important for a team who has performed much better at home across the 2015 season, although they’ve improved away from the Rogers Centre since the All Star break.
Any potential meeting with the Kansas City Royals down the playoff line would also benefit from home field as starting pitcher R.A. Dickey could more easily be moved into a dome start. Marco Estrada has enjoyed more favorable splits at home himself, while it’s also advantageous for the Blue Jays to be the team more familiar with the unique bounces from the Rogers Centre turf, but that’s stretching it a bit.
After pushing for the series sweep today with Mark Buehrle on the hill, the Blue Jays will travel to Baltimore for a four game set against the Orioles. Buck Showalter doesn’t like losing (well, he doesn’t like anything really), and this is the type of series that will really test the Jays.
They’ll finish up with three on the road against Tampa Bay, and if the Jays are able to clinch the division before or during that series, we’ll see just how badly John Gibbons wants top spot in the AL East. Will he make the push, or scale back his starters for a day of rest and try to get Mark Buehrle his 200th inning? Time will tell, but right now, I’m just glad this question exists.