Savvy Jays fans may have noticed that Manager John Schneider pulled out all the stops in a 3-2 comeback, series finale win Thursday night at home against the Astros. Closer Jordan Romano pitched on consecutive nights, saving the game with a perfect ninth after punching out Houston 1B José Abreu on a swinging third strike. With the win, Toronto also took the season series against the Astros 4-3.
So why the playoff atmosphere at a regular season game in early June you might ask? Well, winning the series 3-1 against the defending World Series Champions was certainly a statement to the rest of the American League, especially after Toronto went just a combined 2-13 against their four AL East division rivals in May.
The win also pulled the Blue Jays within half a game of the final wild card slot currently occupied by Houston, and raised their record against teams with a winning percentage above .500 to 20-16. They’ve gone 10-3 since calling a players-only meeting after a 6-3 loss in Tampa Bay on May 25th.
Why the Blue Jays' Series Win Over the Astros Is So Important
Given the Blue Jays trail the red hot Tampa Bay Rays by 9.5 games after 40% of the season, their best chance of making the postseason could lie through one of the three Wild Card tickets. Houston is also in a dogfight in the AL West, trailing the surprising Texas Rangers by 5.0 games.
As Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic (subscription required) notes, “Since last season, [MLB] no longer uses a Game 163 to break ties in the standings at the end of the regular season. Instead, the league reverts to various tiebreaker scenarios, the first of which is teams’ head-to-head results during the season. The Blue Jays will hold the all-important upper hand should they be tied with the Astros, which could impact playoff seeding, home-field advantage or even making the playoffs at all.”
And for a team that missed the 2021 playoffs by one game, the Blue Jays know how important wins are. Holding the tiebreaker over Houston certainly helps, because with a 6-15 record overall against their AL East opponents, winning the tiebreaker against the Rays (3-4 so far head-to-head in 2023 with six more games to play), Orioles (0-3, ten more games), Yankees (3-4, six more games) and even the Red Sox (0-4, nine more games) may be a tough ask this year.
“You’re aware of it, for sure,” Schneider said prior to the game. “Over the course of a season, you never know when that one game or a tiebreaker comes into play.”
Hopefully the Jays continue their current heater and don’t even need to worry about tiebreakers. A .600 record in their remaining 98 games would equate to 59 wins, which would take them to 95 wins on the season. That should be enough for a wild card, even if they’re unable to catch Tampa Bay for the AL East pennant. Let’s go Blue Jays!