After taking two of three from the New York Yankees in the past series, the Toronto Blue Jays are set to face the Tampa Bay Rays six times in the final nine games of the season, starting on Friday. Because of that, it appears the Rays will most likely end up playing a huge part in determining whether or not the Jays will successfully make the playoffs.
However, the bigger question for the Jays is that, should they try to win as much as they can against the Rays? Or should they try to play them cautiously to help set up a more favourable matchup in the postseason?
The more the Jays win against the Rays during this final stretch, the more likely they will make the playoffs, but at the same time will be playing the Rays in the Wild Card series in Tropicana Field. They won’t be able to catch the Rays for the first Wild Card spot. As a result, it would put them in position to finish in the second Wild Card spot, forcing them to play all of their Wild Card playoff games in the Rays’ house. That would be a nightmare for the Jays because they sport a lifetime 88-136 losing record in the Rays’ “house of horrors”.
However, if the Jays lose some of their games, they can position themselves more towards the third Wild Card spot, or perhaps maybe even helping the Rays overtake the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East divisional title. That way, the Jays can avoid playing the Rays in the first playoff round. But at the same time, if they do that, they could be potentially out of the playoffs entirely with the teams in the AL West all hot on their tail with every win or loss potentially affecting the standings in the Wild Card race.
The answer is simple, the goal is to make the playoffs no matter what. So it may be time the Blue Jays do what the Toronto Maple Leafs this past season, which is finally beating Tampa Bay in a playoff round to exorcise their demons once and for all. But hopefully for the sake of the Jays, they can make it further than just one playoff round victory.