It’s funny how it works. You can be the worst team in your division and still be in the running for playoff contention as the baseball season approaches its midway mark. After ousting the Kansas City Royals 6-3 Tuesday night, the A.L. East basement-dwelling Blue Jays sit just two games back of the Los Angeles Angels.
All that talk of the Blue Jays being sellers at the trade deadline is really scrap. Truth is, with 82 games to go any team can make a run for the post-season. That’s enough time for even the American League-worst Mariners to make up 8.5 games.
But the Jays, with just five teams ahead of them, can easily sneak into that top spot in the A.L. Wild Card. Another key point to remember is that with this year’s rule changes, six teams per league will make the playoffs, two from the wild card. So really, there are only four teams to climb.
Let’s get this straight: The Jays are fifth in a five-team division but what other team owns a record over .500 and is last in their division? The answer is no team. The closest would be the Phillies, who are last in the N.L. East, but they’re 8.5 games out, too.
In a league where the richest get richer and the rest must duke it out, anything goes. The Yankees and Rangers may be the only shoe-ins for October, but after that it’s up in the air.
The teams that are behind the Jays probably won’t end up in post-season mix later this year; with the exception of the Cabrera-Prince Tigers, it’s doubtful that Seattle, Minnesota, K.C., or Oakland boast enough depth to compete. The high potent Rays may be the Jays biggest threat, in terms of teams better than them. The other teams ahead of Toronto – the Red Sox, the Orioles, and the Tribe – are easily passable, with all due respect to those ball clubs.
The Jays have dropped six of their last 10 and have three starting pitchers on the D.L., yet they’re still within arms reach of first. Their team ERA (4.45) is in the bottom five of the league, they’ve allowed the most homeruns in the American League, and they’ve walked the most in the majors.
Fortunately, their bats have exploded since day one and they’ve been cranking bombs with ease. One-hundred-twenty balls have left the ballpark off Blue Jay swings, that’s the second most in the league, with first going to the self-proclaimed Bronx Bombers.
This is an important stretch of the season coming up, though. After all-star game weekend wraps up on July 10, that’s when the unofficial second half of the season beings and that’s when it starts to get interesting. Positioning before the all-star game is key, the Jays need to get themselves in a position where they can compete so that they can make a real run for the post-season.
The Jays have four games before the Mid-Season Classic. They should win their next match against K.C, and then try to grab at least one of three in a tough road trip against the White Sox. If the Jays can balance out to an even 2-2, then be well positioned to do some damage when it really matters, in these final three months.