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Blue Jays: Playoff glass is half-full

Sep 19, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) hugs starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) after being relieved against the Seattle Mariners during the eighth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (5) hugs starting pitcher Marco Estrada (25) after being relieved against the Seattle Mariners during the eighth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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The last few weeks have been really rough on the Blue Jays in the standings, especially with Boston’s recent hot streak.

Before I even start, let me state that I would prefer the the Blue Jays win the AL East, and that we could reverse time and re-play the last couple week’s worth of games. It hasn’t been pretty and there is plenty of reason for frustration in the clubhouse and throughout the fanbase.

That said, I’m going to attempt to paint a positive picture. Yes, things are nowhere near as rosy as they were a few weeks ago, but there are a few things about how the playoff picture stands that I really like, and I bet you might too.

As we all know, the Red Sox have overtaken the Blue Jays for first in the AL East. If they can hold their lead, and it looks like they will, they’ll draw the Cleveland Indians in Round 1 of the playoffs. As things currently stand, the Blue Jays would play the Baltimore Orioles in the one game, sudden-death wild card game.

1. The Orioles aren’t a bad match-up in one game

Again, winning the East would be a more favourable scenario, and the Orioles aren’t exactly a cakewalk. That said, would you rather face David Price and the Red Sox in a one game throw down? Corey Kluber and Indians? Cole Hamels and the Rangers?

The Orioles likely go with Chris Tillman in a one game series, with Kevin Gausman possibly getting consideration. Neither has the playoff experience or intimidation factor of the above mentioned names, and would likely be the favourable match-up for the Jays. The least of the evils, if you will.

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We don’t know who the Blue Jays would go with just yet, but there are a few decent choices when looking at career numbers vs Orioles hitters. As a team, the Orioles have batted just .177 lifetime against Marco Estrada. His start against the Mariners on Monday night may have solidified his spot in the playoff rotation, and he could possibly get consideration for this game depending on his performance in his last two starts. Manny Machado has hit just 2-18 (.111), Chris Davis is 2-16 (.125), and Adam Jones is 1-15 (.067) against Estrada, which is obviously appealing.

20 game winner J.A. Happ, has held the Orioles hitters to a career .230 batting average. The Orioles have hit just .231 against Aaron Sanchez in limited opportunity, and do boast many right handed hitters, so he could be an option as well.

2. The Blue would get the Rangers in the ALDS

I’ll admit it, I want this to happen. I’m even borderline okay with losing out on the AL East crown if it means getting another series with the Rangers. I know I’m not alone in my distaste for the Rangers, and I’d love nothing more than to watch Jose Bautista hit a walk-off home run and smirk his way around the bases.

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The Rangers are definitely a formidable playoff opponent, but in order to be the best you’ve gotta beat the best. By the ALDS, you’re getting to the point where there aren’t any easy games. We’re basically there now.

3. The Blue Jays have a very streaky roster

This is a bit of a reach, but hear me out. The offence has stunk recently, there’s no denying it. The Jays’ best hitters aren’t performing, and as a result they have went from a few games up on the Red Sox, to down four with time running out.

Throughout that free fall, many things have gone wrong, including a struggling rotation. It’s been much more than that though, as the offence has been in a rut that’s extended nearly club wide.

There isn’t much to the “science” behind hot streaks, but the Blue Jays have plenty of streaky hitters and pretty much everyone is due to get hot. In particular, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Bautista are all known as pretty streaky hitters. One could argue that they’re all “due” to varying degrees, and if they’re able to catch fire at the right time the Blue Jays still have the tools to do a great deal of damage.

4. The roster is healthy (knock on wood)

Granted Josh Donaldson isn’t 100%, and there are no doubt plenty of nicks and aches by this point in the season for several players. But the Blue Jays have had an amazing run of health with their big league roster this season, Gavin Floyd and Bautista’s stints not-withstanding.

While the Mets’ and Indians’ rotations are falling apart at the seams, the Blue Jays can be thankful their club is healthy and as ready as they’re going to be for the playoff run.

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There is plenty of reason to be frustrated lately for sure, but it could certainly be worse in Toronto with 11 games remaining. With a strong finish, the Blue Jays will qualify for the playoffs as a wild card team, and it’s still mathematically possible for them to pass the Red Sox as well, however unlikely.

Going the wild card route will certainly be a greater challenge, but once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen.

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