Blue Jays getting the help that they need to catch up

Sep 7, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Alejandro Kirk (30) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run as New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes (35) looks away during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Alejandro Kirk (30) rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run as New York Yankees relief pitcher Clay Holmes (35) looks away during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports /
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We knew that the Blue Jays would have to play some great September baseball to stay in the Wild Card race, but thankfully they’re getting some help from the rest of their competition too.

The AL Wild Card standings are essentially a five-team race with just two postseason spots to be had. After Tuesday’s nights schedule concluded the Blue Jays had made up more ground on both the Yankees and Red Sox, who hold the two Wild Card spots at the moment. Obviously the Blue Jays helped control their own destiny by beating the Yankees themselves, but the Red Sox also lost again to the Rays. To make things even better, both the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners also came up on the losing end of their games on Tuesday, which leaves the Jays in sole possession of third, and just 2.0 games back of the Sox.

It’s not just last night’s schedule that has worked in the Blue Jays’ favour either. Obviously a six-game winning streak of their own is doing wonders for their playoff potential, but it’s also coming at a time when the other contenders are facing some legitimate issues.

Starting with the Yankees, they’ve now dropped four in a row after back to back losses to the Blue Jays, and that came after a pair of losses to the bottom-dwelling Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees arguably had a chance to bury the Jays’ playoff hopes this week, and instead they’ve let them right back into the picture over the first two games.

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On top of that, they’re really not playing very well right now, and their ace starter in Gerrit Cole had to leave the game in the 4th inning on Tuesday and could even miss a start or two because of a tight hamstring. His absence would be a serious blow for the Bronx Bombers, who already lost Jonathan Loaisiga this weekend, and he was arguably their top reliever. Just 2-8 over their last ten games, the Yankees went from seemingly being in cruise control, to really feeling the heat from the Blue Jays and the rest of their Wild Card competition.

As for the Red Sox, they also looked like they were well set up to get the second Wild Card spot. That could still happen of course, but things are going in the wrong direction in Boston these days for several different reasons. Their roster has been hit very hard by Covid over the last week or so, with 11 different players hitting the Covid IL. That’s not the only reason for their recent struggles, but obviously it’s a pretty significant factor. The Red Sox have lost their last three, and their schedule won’t get any easier in the coming days with one more against the Rays, and then a visit to Chicago to play the White Sox.

After being swept by the Blue Jays over the weekend, an off day didn’t do a whole lot of good for the A’s. They lost the series opener to the White Sox, making it four in a row and five of their last six. After two more games with the White Sox they will see a softer stretch that includes the Rangers, Royals, and Angels, but things are quickly unravelling in Oakland these days.

Last but not least, the Seattle Mariners just keep hanging around despite all odds. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought their run at the postseason would be long over by now, but they’re still just 3.0 games back of the Red Sox for the 2nd Wild Card spot, and very much in the race. After sweeping the Diamondbacks over the weekend the A’s have now dropped the first two games of their series with Houston, and they’ll need to get back on track in short order. They will have a lot of say in what happens to their playoff chances either way, as they still have three games against the Red Sox, and seven with the A’s.

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Considering that the Blue Jays’ season looked like it was all but finished a week or two ago, it’s pretty remarkable to see where they are now. There is still plenty of work to do to push past one or both of the Red Sox and Yankees, but thankfully their recent hot streak has been well timed and coincided with the rest of the Wild Card contenders cooling down. Meaningful baseball in September is just the best.

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