The Blue Jays took care of business as they should against the Orioles and Marlins. They’re now in for a true test ahead of the All-Star break.
The Jays are now sitting with a record of 40-36 and leapfrogged the Yankees for third place in the AL East on Sunday. That’s happened because they’ve won seven of their last eight gamers while beating up on some of the weaker teams in baseball. If you’re going to be a contender that’s exactly what you need to do, and it’s a very encouraging sign to see the Blue Jays’ offence breaking out lately.
It’s one thing to win games that you can’t afford to lose, but it’s another to come out ahead against other contending teams. With 12 games remaining before the All-Star break, the Jays will play nine games against teams with a better than .500 record, with one more three-game set against the Orioles on the schedule as well.
The Jays continue their home stand this week and the stretch starts on Tuesday with a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. Earlier in the year I would have considered the Mariners as a team that would likely end up as sellers ahead of the trade deadline, but they’ve been a pleasant surprise in the AL West this season with a 41-38 record as of this writing. It’s still a series that the Blue Jays can and should win, but the Mariners should provide a bigger fight than the Jays have seen recently.
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After that comes a trio of very significant games against the Tampa Bay Rays, also at home at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. The Jays then play the Orioles three more times in Baltimore, and then head to “The Trop” for three more against the Rays. I’ll stop short of calling the games against Tampa Bay as “must-win” this early in the year, but coming away with a series win would be a significant sign for the front office.
At the conclusion of Sunday’s schedule, the AL East now looks like this:
- Red Sox (47-31) —
- Rays (47-32) 0.5
- Blue Jays (40-36) 6.0
- Yankees (40-37) 6.5
- Orioles (24-54) 23
As you can see, the Blue Jays have their work cut out for them against some stiff division competition. It’s not hard seeing this turning into a 4-team race for the division crown, and also for a Wild Card spot. That said, the WC standings will also include the 2nd place finishers in the West and the Central, and right now that would be the Oakland A’s (47-33) and Cleveland (41-33). If the season ended today, the Blue Jays would miss the playoffs by five games with the Rays and A’s as the two clubs currently holding the Wild Card spots.
As important as those games against the Rays are, it’s equally significant for this young roster to show the front office that they’re worth investing in for 2021. I’m a big subscriber to the idea that the Blue Jays need to take advantage of the talented roster they’ve assembled, even if most of the core will be around for several more years. However, I can also understand that the front office is in an interesting position right now. Do they want to overpay to address their biggest need in the bullpen?
The Jays have mostly been able to get away with their below-average bullpen throughout this successful stretch because they’ve played against the Orioles and Marlins. Even at that, the bullpen still blew a four-run lead against the Orioles last week, and that can’t happen for a true contender in a tight race.
Ideally the front office would be able to find an impact arm or two right away, but it’s more likely that comes after the All-Star break. After going 7-1 against the Orioles and Rays, the Blue Jays took the first step toward proving they’re worth investing in this year. These next 12 games might really answer that question and shape the rest of the season.