The Blue Jays have some work to do to catch up in the AL East and Wild Card standings, but fortunately their 2nd half schedule should be a bit easier than what they dealt with over the first 81 games.
After playing their 81st game on Saturday, the Jays opened the second half of the schedule with a loss against Tampa Bay to close out their three-game set. Fortunately the Blue Jays took the first two games against the Rays, so they can at least leave the series having made some progress in the standings.
The next stop for this talented young team will be a trip to Baltimore for three games against the Orioles, and then three more with the Rays at “the Trop” before we get to the All-Star break. Having won 10 of their last 14, hopefully the Blue Jays can finish strong ahead of the break and set themselves up in a strong position for the official second half.
What I find particularly encouraging is the way the second half schedule compares to the quality of competition the Blue Jays faced in the first half. It’s not drastically different, but I do believe that the Jays should get a bit of a break, at least comparatively. With 80 games remaining in the regular season, here’s a quick breakdown of who they’ll play, and how those teams are faring this year.
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Orioles (27-57)– 12 games left
We’ve talked about this before here at Jays Journal, but having this many games left against the Orioles is an opportunity that can’t be wasted. Thankfully the Jays went 5-2 against them at the end of June, and they’ll need to keep up that pace or better.
Rays (48-36)– 9 games left
I’m happy that the Blue Jays will get three more games with the Rays before the All-Star break. Despite picking up the win on Sunday to avoid the sweep, the Rays have been scuffling lately and now is as good a time to play them as any. The nine head to head games left on the calendar are pretty spread out, and they’ll be important for both the division, and the Wild Card race.
Red Sox (53-32)– 10 games left
It won’t be an easy task, but I’m glad the Blue Jays still have 10 games left to play against the Red Sox. If they want to take a run at the division this season then these 10 games will be crucial. I believe the Red Sox are due for a regression and hopefully the Blue Jays continue to improve, but we’ll see if there’s enough time to close an 8.5 game gap.
Yankees (42-41)– 7 games left
It sounds weird to say, but it’s almost a bit of a shame that the Blue Jays won’t get to play the Yankees more before this season is over. They’re not the same team that we’ve grown accustomed to fearing, and they could even end up as sellers ahead of the trade deadline. Things could change, but it hasn’t been a good season at all for the Bronx Bombers.
Twins (34-48)– 7 games left
The Twins have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball this year. They could improve in the second half, but as obvious sellers it’s also possible they could get worse. Hopefully the Blue Jays can take advantage, and maybe the two clubs can even end up as trade partners.
Tigers (38-46)– 6 games left
Another team the Blue Jays have to beat up on if they want to make the playoffs. The Tigers aren’t very good, and could sell off a few veterans ahead of the trade deadline as well.
Cleveland (42-39), Angels (42-41), White Sox (49-34)– 4 games left against each
With four games each against Cleveland, L.A., and Chicago, the Blue Jays will have a chance to show whether they are pretenders or contenders. The White Sox are assuredly playoff bound, and Cleveland and the Angels could be direct competition for the Jays in the Wild Card race. These games will be significant.
3 games each
Rangers (33-51)– Another team the Jays have to beat up on in limited opportunity.
Royals (35-48)– See above.
Mets (43-37)– Please baseball gods, give us a Marcus Stroman reunion game.
Mariners (45-40)– After losing two of three to Seattle, they need to return the favour on the road.
A’s (49-37)– Another team that will be at the top of the Wild Card race. These three games in September could be huge.
*Nationals (40-42)– There are just two games against the Nationals, when the Blue Jays will visit them in Washington. After a terrible start to the year, they’ve climbed back to relevancy in the NL East and should be ready to play.
Add it all up and the Blue Jays’ opponents have a 620-629 record as of this writing, good for a winning percentage of .496. It’s not a cake walk by any means, but it’s encouraging seeing that number below .500, and as I’ve mentioned before, several of these teams could end up as sellers and weaken their MLB rosters further. That could include the Orioles, Twins, Tigers, Rangers, Royals, and maybe even the Yankees.
The Blue Jays will be the home team for 42 out of their 38 games remaining, but one of those games will actually be on the road against the Angels on August 10th, making up for a rainout earlier in the year. The bigger boost could come in the form of a return north of the border, which is still very much up in the air at the moment, but looking more possible as Covid-19 numbers are improving across North America right now.
With the Blue Jays playing better of late, I expect that we’re in for a very interesting second half, and hopefully one that will see this group reach their full potential. Their schedule isn’t easy by any means, but they have an opportunity to beat up on some weaker teams, and some head to head matchups against others that they need to surpass in the standings. The opportunity will be there for the taking if they’re ready to meet the challenge.