The Blue Jays can determine their own playoff destiny with just 36 regular season games remaining, but there’s an early maturing problem in the AL East.
I have to admit, it’s taken me quite a while to come around on the fact that the Baltimore Orioles are a good baseball team. It still doesn’t fully compute in my head just yet, and I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that still thinks they’ll fall off before the end of the year as they were supposed to a long time ago. Instead, right now they have a 67-60 record and are just 1.5 games back of the Blue Jays for the final playoff spot.
It’s a maddening development for Jays fans, as the AL East was already difficult enough between other perennial contenders like the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox, even if the latter hasn’t had a great 2022 campaign. The Sox have a 62-66 record at the moment, but it’s entirely possible that they’ll finish the year above .500 just like the rest of the division.
In the immediate term, I have to admit that I’m worrying more about the Orioles as time goes on. In a lot of ways they remind me of the Blue Jays team that squeaked into the expanded postseason back during the pandemic shortened season in 2020. Armed with some talented young stars with very little MLB experience, the expectations were low, which took some of the pressure off. I look at the Orioles in much the same way, and I think they are potentially even more dangerous because they realize that they’ve already outdone the expectations of pretty much everyone for this season. You could argue that it’s pretty much all gravy for them from here, and that talented young team is having a lot of fun proving people wrong.
The Blue Jays are coming from a much different place as a club that was absolutely expected to contend for not just a playoff spot, but a division crown and even a World Series appearance this year. The Yankees had other plans for the division with their record level pace in the first half, and as of this writing the Jays are in 3rd place in their division since they’re also 1.5 games back of the Rays for the top Wild Card spot.
The good news is the Blue Jays and Orioles still have 10 games to play against each other before the regular season is over. As I said before, that means this Blue Jays team that is supposed to make some noise in 2022 will have a chance to determine their own destiny. The bad news is so far that head to head matchup hasn’t gone so well for the boys in blue, as the Jays are just 3-6 against the Orioles so far this year.
The Orioles aren’t the only Wild Card contender that the Blue Jays will have to worry about either. The Twins are just 3.0 games back, and the White Sox are 6.0 back of the last AL postseason spot, and even the Red Sox aren’t finished at just 7.0 games behind. At the end of the day the Blue Jays are going to have to earn their place in the playoffs, and it needs to start at the beginning of the week here against the Cubs.
As for the Orioles, hopefully the Blue Jays can find their stride on offence again sooner than later, as they’ll visit Baltimore for a four-game series from September 5-7 (double-header on the 5th) in what could be a very important series. I have to admit, I never dreamed that the Orioles would be relevant to the postseason picture so soon, especially not as we’re about to flip the calendar to September. I was hoping it would be at least another year or two before the AL East was a logjam across the board.