Blue Jays-Red Sox series a crucial early point in the season

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 25: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox steals second base in the seventh inning during MLB game action as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays takes the throw at Rogers Centre on April 25, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 25: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox steals second base in the seventh inning during MLB game action as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays takes the throw at Rogers Centre on April 25, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Despite the fact that we’re not quite at the quarter pole for the 2018 season, the upcoming series with the Red Sox could be a crucial crossroads for the Blue Jays this year.

It feels like the MLB season has barely begun, we’re nearly a quarter of the way through the 162 game season. All things considered the Blue Jays have been reasonably solid, still sitting two games above .500 at 20-18 despite losing two of three at home against Seattle this week. When you consider that the Blue Jays were never over .500 in 2017, it’s still an early win on some level.

There have been pleasant surprises and frustrating performances on the field for the Blue Jays, with guys like Yangervis Solarte, Teoscar Hernandez, Tyler Clippard and more performing better than advertised, and the likes of Kendrys Morales, Marcus Stroman, Russell Martin and others struggling mightily. Despite the downsides, they’re just three games out of the 2nd Wild Card spot after 38 games played. I know it’s early, but the April/May games count just as much as the ones played in August and September.

With that in mind, and not to blown anything out of proportion, this upcoming series with the Boston Red Sox this weekend could be an significant turning point for the Blue Jays. They entered the season as a club that could potentially contend, but is also well set up to be torn down in a flash later this year if they’re not, as several valuable veterans are playing on expiring deals. You’re likely aware of this by now, but if not the list includes guys like Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, and others.

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The Blue Jays are set up fairly well to be contenders at this point in the calendar, but as I said a few months ago, it’s incredibly important for the Blue Jays to start the season on a positive note, as they have. If they don’t keep it up though, there is a very solid argument for building toward a short term future that will include the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who is setting the baseball world on fire from Double-A with nightly highlight reels.

And it’s not as if they couldn’t recover from a series sweep against Boston if it happened, as they’d still have 121 games to determine how the season ultimately ends. That said, it will be an important checkpoint in the season for the front office, the mojo of the roster, and even the fan support at the Rogers Centre, which has dwindled significantly this year.

The first loss to Seattle on Tuesday felt a little less dreadful than it was because of James Paxton being the hero, the first Canadian to throw a no-hitter on Canadian soil in big league history. It was also a great distraction from the gut wrenching news about Roberto Osuna that morning as well, which obviously raises some serious questions for the organization, and for the young pitcher’s future.

The second game was better, but it wasn’t really until the end of the bout that the Blue Jays got things going in the eighth inning. Before that their bats were mostly anemic, and Jaime Garcia was lucky to escape with just two runs allowed. It was the third loss that turned things a little sour, and leaves Blue Jays fans feeling some dread to see Boston this weekend, even if they’ve come down to earth a little from their red hot start.

With a disappointingly shaky rotation, and over-achieving bullpen that’s running on fumes and just lost their best arm, and an offence with a lot of question marks, it’s hard to forecast how the rest of the season could go.

On one hand you could reasonably expect the rotation to improve, which would give the bullpen a break and improve things drastically. Add a little better health from the offence, and it’s easy to see a formula already in place for a playoff team. On the other hand, if the rotation can’t rectify things the bullpen will eventually wear out, and it’s hard to see the offence riding Kevin Pillar, Yangervis Solarte, and others like Luke Maile to the postseason. They’ll need good health and performance from their infielders, and hopefully that’ll include Devon Travis, a healthy Donaldson, and heaven forbid, maybe even Troy Tulowitzki at some point.

After going 4-6 in their last ten against the Twins, Rays, Mariners, and a make-up double header with Cleveland, combined with the disappointing and downright shocking news about Osuna, the Blue Jays are in desperate need of a string of wins to change the narrative and inspire some confidence in this team. It’s not necessarily too late if they can’t pull it off against Boston this weekend, but it’ll be a bigger blow to their chances than you normally find in May, especially for a team that’s two games on the plus side.

Maybe I’m be way off on this, but something tells me this could be the series that determines the future of the 2018 Blue Jays. I hope they sweep the series and march to glory throughout the the calendar, but I’d be equally fine with them being swept right now and ultimately winning the division too. However, I admit that I fear for the worst as the pitching staff faces off against the potent Red Sox lineup, and hope the Blue Jays’ hitters can find a way to hit the trio of Chris Sale, David Price, and Drew Pomeranz that they’re slated to see.

Next: Blue Jays: A Rocky Rotation

It’s not going to be easy, but it maybe also tell us a lot about what this year’s version of the Blue Jays is made of.