As the dog days of summer start to wane and the nights cool off, the Blue Jays have an upcoming 16-game stretch from August 26th to September 11th where they will have to take advantage of an easy schedule, playing such doormats as the Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Texas Rangers.
While four of those games are in Baltimore against the O’s, who continue to hang tough in the Wild Card race, winning 10-12 of the next sixteen would go a long way to solidifying the Jays’ own Wild Card chances. The team currently occupies the second Wild Card spot, half a game behind Tampa Bay and a game up on Seattle.
This stretch will be key given Toronto will finish off the regular season with 21 of their final 23 games against AL East opponents. The wins need to pile up now while they can to create a buffer, especially given the Jays trail in the Wild Card tiebreakers with Tampa (4-6 with nine games left) and Baltimore (3-6 with ten games left).
With no “Game 163” tiebreakers this year under the new postseason format, the team with the best head-to-head series record wins the tiebreaker to advance.
Time to Take Advantage of Easy Stretch for the Blue Jays
The Angels arrive in Toronto this weekend for a three-game series before the Jays host the Cubs to close out August. LA is in a tailspin at 1-9 in their past ten games with six straight losses, and they sit 28.5 games back in the AL West and 16.0 games back in the Wild Card with a .416 winning percentage. The Cubs are 18.0 games back in the NL Central with a .432 winning percentage.
For a team as hot as the Blue Jays are right now with seven wins in their past ten, and three straight after a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway, there’s no excuse for them not to win both of those series at home with a combined 4-5 wins.
They then head out on the road to play ten games against the Pirates, who are dead last in the NL Central with a .379 winning percentage, the Orioles, who are currently 2.5 games back of Seattle for the final Wild Card, and the Rangers, sitting 23.0 games back of Houston in the AL West with a .460 winning percentage.
A sweep of the Pirates, one of baseball’s three worst teams, would help. Then a split of the four games at Camden, which includes a doubleheader on the Labour Day holiday on September 5th, and a series win in Texas would be seven more wins in the books.
That would put the Blue Jays anywhere from 78-80 wins with 23 games remaining; 12-13 more wins to close out the season would then get the Jays north of the 90 wins that should merit a Wild Card spot with the expanded three-team format.
This seems reasonable given the Jays’ pitching staff ranks 4th in baseball over their past ten games since August 15th with a 2.37 ERA and 2nd overall on FIP at 2.70. Manager John Schneider seems to have settled on his late innings relievers with Yimi Garcia setting up Jordan Romano in save situations, and with outstanding starting pitching eating up almost 60% of the 91 innings pitched over that stretch, they’ve only had to cover 3+ innings on average per night in relief.
The bats have also been hot at the same time, with a team slash line of .261/.326/.394 in the past ten games, with 49 runs scored for a run differential of +19. Coincidentally, George Springer has been the straw stirring that drink since returning from the IL on August 15th.
Are 10-12 wins over the next 16 games a reasonable target? Let’s hope so, and let’s go Jays!