Blue Jays: An extremely important week ahead for the playoff race
The Blue Jays have a pair of days off this week, but the games they will play will be extremely important for their chances in the AL Wild Card race.
To me there are two themes that will run through this week for the Blue Jays as they square off against the Washington Nationals for two games in D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then when they meet the Tigers for a three-game set back in Toronto to kick off a new home stand. First and the most obvious is that they need to keep winning, which isn’t exactly an astute revelation to point out. However, there are a few more layers to this week’s schedule than usual that could work in the Jays’ favour.
To start with, the Jays should be able to take advantage of weaker competition, as the Nationals struggled to the point where they sold off star players like Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, and Kyle Schwarber ahead of the July 30 trade deadline. The Tigers have actually been pretty good since the All-Star break, but they’re one of the lower-ranked teams in the American League, and the Jays needs to take advantage as the two teams will play each other six times before the end of August.
Secondly though, by making sure to take care of business over the next five games the Blue Jays may be able to gain some ground on their competition for the two Wild Card spots, which could be especially important before they play four games against the White Sox during the following week. As the Blue Jays have mostly surged since the beginning of the month, it hasn’t made as much of a difference in the standings as one might hope, mostly because their fellow contenders have been keeping pace for the most part, or even besting the Blue Jays’ record.
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That said, they should catch a bit of a break by nature of everyone else’s schedules this week, at least compared to their own. For example, the Yankees will play eight games over their next seven days because of a make up game with the Angels on Monday and then a double-header on Tuesday, which also includes a three-game series with the Red Sox. One way or another, one of those two teams have to lose during those match-ups. The Yankees play the Angels and the Twins which isn’t as bad, but they’re also dealing with a bunch of injuries right now so the high volume of innings to cover isn’t ideal.
The Oakland A’s are looking at a very difficult next seven days, and they’re going to need to play well in order to fend off the three AL East teams they’re competing with. They’ll begin with a four-game series against the White Sox, who might be the most dangerous team in the American League at the moment, and they’ll follow it up with the best team in the NL in the San Francisco Giants. If the A’s can make it through this week and still have a grip on their playoff spot, they’ll have to feel good about what’s left of the schedule.
As for the Red Sox, their schedule looks pretty similar to the Blue Jays as far as off days. They don’t play on Monday but they will cram three games into two days against the Yankees. They’ll have a bit of an advantage with some time off to rest compared to the Bronx Bombers, but New York is the hotter team lately. That said, if either of the two clubs can sweep that series it may have a real impact in the Wild Card standings. Otherwise, the Red Sox will also be off on Thursday before they host the Rangers for three at Fenway Park over next weekend.
On top of the schedule stuff for both the Blue Jays and their competition for the Wild Card, it’ll be important for Charlie Montoyo’s club to find a way to succeed this week despite missing George Springer, and also with a clearly hobbled Bo Bichette. Springer sprained his ankle on Saturday night against the Mariners in what looked like a serious situation, but it sounds like he may have escaped as extended layoff. Still, I think it’s all but ruled out that he’ll play against Washington, and I’d be a bit surprised to see him back for series with the Tigers either. As for Bichette, he’s missed multiple games over the last week after fouling several balls off of his sore legs, and was the DH on Sunday. It was encouraging to see his name on the lineup card, but his five strikeouts should tell us that he’s not at 100%. Hopefully the off day will do him wonders.
With just 45 games remaining in the regular season schedule we’re now at the point where every game is magnified that much more. For the Blue Jays, this week could be very important in determining whether they’ll stay with or even catch up to their competition.