Blue Jays: The next 5 weeks could make or break the season

Jun 5, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a RBI double in the first inning against Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sean Manaea (not pictured) at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a RBI double in the first inning against Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sean Manaea (not pictured) at the Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Blue Jays are 28-30. 2 games below .500 on June 6th. Based on the 2-11 start, I think everyone is thrilled with how things have transpired since then. People are no longer thinking of the Blue Jays being deadline sellers, but potential deadline buyers.

There are 5 weeks between now and the all-star break, which I believe will make or break the Blue Jays season. Some may think this is a “hot take” kind of article. However, the idea that this is the most crucial stretch of the season for the Blue Jays has been thrown around by Toronto sports media personalities such as Arden Zwelling and Jeff Blair.

I took a look at the schedule, and it absolutely is true. The next 6 series (5 if you remove the current Oakland series) are all against teams below .500. This is the Blue Jays time to make some hay and get above .500 to play with the rest of the American League from here on out.

I give a brief breakdown of the next 6 series and then touch upon what lies ahead after these 6 series.

Road Trip #1 – at Oakland Athletics (June 5th-7th) & at Seattle Mariners (June 9th-11th)

Road trip #1 between now and the all-star break got started last night (June 5th) in Oakland with a loss. Starter J.A. Happ made 2 mistakes which were both to Ryon Healy. Healy drove in all 5 runs against Happ and the Blue Jays lost 5-3. The rest of the series has the Blue Jays face Jesse Hahn and Jharel Cotton. Toronto counters with Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano.

The Athletics are last in the AL West at 25-32. They feature the league’s 26th ranked offense, 17th ranked pitching staff, and 30th ranked defense. The Athletics are not a very good ball club. They do hit a bunch of home runs, as evidenced a night ago. However, the Blue Jays are the better ball club.

Following the Athletics, the Blue Jays head up the west coast to what is now known as ‘Rogers Centre North’ to play the Seattle Mariners. Currently, the Mariners have the same record as the Blue Jays at 28-30. The Blue Jays swept the Mariners back in mid-May in a 4 game series, but the Mariners have gotten some of their starting staff back. The Mariners have the 10th ranked defense, 24th ranked pitching staff, and 9th ranked offense. The Blue Jays have the chance to feast on a still injured pitching rotation.

Ultimately, the Blue Jays play 6 games on this road trip and are off to an 0-1 start. The idea is to play .500 ball on the road. However, against 2 weak teams, a dream scenario would see them going 4-2 or better.

  • Desired Record: 4-2 (32-32)
  • Realistic Expectation: 3-3 (31-33)

Homestand #1 – vs. Tampa Bay Rays (June 13th-14th) & vs. Chicago White Sox (June 16th-18th)

The first homestand between now and the all-star break and it’s a very quick 5 game homestand. Two games against the Rays and 2 against the White Sox.

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The Rays have always given the Blue Jays trouble. The Blue Jays just can’t seem to shake the Rays and the challenge they always present. The Rays find themselves at 29-30, just half a game ahead of the Blue Jays for 4th in the AL East. The Rays can hit the ball quite well as evidenced by their 4th ranked offense. They’re middle of the pack in the pitching department at 14th and 13th in fielding. They’re a piece or two away from potentially being able to make some serious noise in the East, but for now, they’re likely a .500 team by the time the season’s end.

The White Sox are in the middle of a full rebuild. They’re 24-31 and if the Blue Jays are able to escape Jose Quintana, they could be in for a nice weekend against the lowly White Sox. The White Sox are ranked 23rd defensively, 23rd in pitching, and 24th offensively. They’re not a good ball club and the Blue Jays should expect a sweep.

This homestand can potentially be quite fruitful. It’s a quick 2 game series with Tampa, so hopefully, the Blue Jays can avoid Chris Archer. If so, a 5-0 homestand isn’t out of the possibility, but it still could be difficult to sweep the board. 4-1 is both desired and realistic.

  • Desired Record: 4-1 (36-33)
  • Realistic Expectation: 4-1 (35-34)

Road Trip #2 – at Texas Rangers (June 19th-22nd) & at Kansas City Royals (June 23rd-25th)

Road trip #2 between now and the all-star break is another chance for the Blue Jays to make some ground up in the standings. After getting to .500, the Rangers find themselves at 26-31. The Royals have been terrible and will likely be selling the likes of Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas at the deadline. They’re currently at 24-32.

The Blue Jays took 2/3 from the Rangers at Rogers Centre over Memorial Day weekend. They managed to beat Yu Darvish but struggled to get much going against Andrew Cashner. The Rangers are typically a powerhouse offensively but are ranked at 22nd. They’re also not very good on the pitching side at 26th and are 12th defensively.

The Jays will face the team that knocked them out in the 2015 ALCS for the first time in 2017. The Royals are not good. They’re nowhere close to the team that won the 2015 World Series. They can pick it defensively as the 3rd best team in baseball. They’re middle ground in the pitching department at 15th, but they’re terrible offensively at 29th.

On this 7 game road trip, you’d like to win each series. 3/4 in Texas, a team the Blue Jays have a successful history against, and then 2/3 from Kansas City. However, I’d say a 4-3 road trip would do fine. If you play above .500 ball at home and .500 ball on the road, you likely end up a playoff team. A 4-3 road trip would be just fine, and anything better is a bonus.

  • Desired Record: 5-2 (41-35)
  • Realistic Expectation: 4-3 (40-36)

Remainder of the Schedule

  • June 27th-29th vs. Baltimore Orioles
  • June 30th-July 2nd vs. Boston Red Sox
  • July 3rd-5th at New York Yankees
  • July 6th-9th at Houston Astros

After the Blue Jays conclude their series at the Kansas City Royals, it’s go time. Anything less than what I’ve set out as a realistic expectation for the next 6 series and the Blue Jays could find themselves behind the 8 ball even more. If they follow through on my realistic expectations, they go into the final 2 weeks at least 4 games above .500. Of course, they could be at .500 or 1-2 games above. They could also be .500 or 1-2 games below .500 as they currently find themselves.

You can clearly see the importance of taking advantage of the schedule over these next few weeks as it is a tough stretch to go into the all-star break with. By the end of the next 5 weeks, we should see who the Blue Jays really are. It will give management further clarity as to whether or not they will add, stand pat, or sell a few assets for pieces.

Next: Blue Jays should target left-handed relief in trade

The next 5 weeks are crucial before the all-star break. Even more crucial are the 6 series against teams all below .500. These 6 series can position the Blue Jays beautifully for the final 2 weeks before the all-star break.

They must take advantage of the opposition. It will be a fun next 5 weeks, and one could argue that this is the stretch that will determine what the Blue Jays do post all-star break.