Blue Jays: Why Wednesday’s series finale is such a huge game
Every game is important for the rest of the regular season for the Blue Jays, but Wednesday’s series finale with the Rays has some additional meaning.
Obviously it’ll be important for the Blue Jays to keep the pressure on the New York Yankees, who are a half game back of the Jays for the second Wild Card spot, and that’s priority number one. They also have to keep an eye on the Oakland A’s, who aren’t yet out of the race for a playoff spot, and catching the Red Sox for the first Wild Card spot is still very much on the table.
All that said, Wednesday needs to be about sending a message to the Rays.
No, I’m not talking about the “controversial” report from Sportsnet’s Arash Mandani before the game where he showed video of Kevin Kiermaier having Alejandro Kirk’s cheat note card literally fall in his lap. I’m talking about the kind of message the Blue Jays can send by finishing their regular season series off with a win against the top team in the AL East, and winning this three-game series at the dreaded “Trop”.
Playing away games against the Rays has been a “House of Horrors” as former skipper John Gibbons once described it, but 2021 hasn’t been nearly as bad in that regard. In fact, if the Jays can win on Wednesday it would mark the second time that they’ve won a series at the Trop, which is nearly unheard of. Heading into the 2021 season the Blue Jays had the worst record at the Trop of any AL East team since Tampa Bay joined the league. That record stood at just 79-125, good for a .387 winning percentage.
Why does that matter if the Blue Jays are finishing up their season series with the Rays on Wednesday? Because IF the Blue Jays make the playoffs and IF they win the Wild Card game, they’re almost guaranteed to play the Rays in an ALDS re-match. As the projected top team in the American League, the Rays would also have the home field advantage in that series.
Obviously the Blue Jays have a lot more immediate and important things to worry about before they get to that point, but winning Wednesday’s game would send an important message to the Rays, and likely to the Red Sox and Yankees as well. It’s turned into a dog fight for the two Wild Card spots, and if a team like the Yankees had a chance to make up some ground on the Blue Jays, their best chance was to begin the week here when the Jays played the Rays. Instead the Yankees would have to make up that deficit as they finish their own schedule against Toronto, Boston, and Tampa Bay, while the Jays have some (theoretically) easier games against the Twins and Orioles.
Fortunately the Blue Jays can focus on the immediate task at hand and accomplish several goals at once. A win on Wednesday gets them one step closer to locking down a playoff spot, but it would also show the Rays that the path to the World Series is going to be a lot more difficult in 2021, and the Blue Jays aren’t a team that anyone should want to play for any length of playoff series.