Meaningful September baseball lies ahead of us, and this has me on edge about the Toronto Blue Jays’ chances
Here’s the problem with September baseball: standing on the edge of a 21-season absence from the playoffs, it seems like such fun – the games are bigger, the players are better, the rivalries are badder – but flip the script and all of that excitement quickly disappears. Nervousness, stress, and angst replace whatever joys you anticipated, and 10 little bloody stumps serve as the only reminder that you once had fingernails.
September baseball, in short, can be brutal. The notion that every game matters, that a season can be made or lost on a single play, is brutal. It’s almost enough to make you rethink crossing that edge.
This is where the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans now find themselves. It’s been a 23-year journey into the deepest, darkest depths of insecurity and uncertainty. The entire house of cards could fall at any moment.
The excitement and sense of unstoppable momentum that we rode into the playoffs last season is gone. Now we’re counting the number of games that remain, keeping a close eye on our nearest rivals, and crossing every fingernail-less finger that we haven’t already bitten off.
With September baseball just around the corner, the Blue Jays are tied for first place in the American League East (at the time of writing). They share that honour with the Boston Red Sox (70-54), and the Baltimore Orioles (68-56) refuse to go quietly into the night sitting just two games behind the divisional leaders. No comfort can be found in the Wild Card picture either with the Seattle Mariners (67-57), Detroit Tigers (65-59), Houston Astros (65-60), and Kansas City Royals (64-60) still showing signs of fight.
In the race to October, the Blue Jays hold a number of advantages, but none of them are guarantors of success. Of the seven teams just mentioned, the Blue Jays have the best team ERA (3.72) and WHIP (1.21); the fourth best fielding percentage (.986); and the second most runs (596). In fact, the Blue Jays’ pitching has been so dominant this season that those are actually the best numbers in the entire American League. Only Boston (683) has scored more runs than Toronto, and only Houston (.989), Baltimore (.987), and Detroit (.987) have played better in the field than Toronto.
Focusing on the divisional race alone, Toronto appears to have the easier schedule down the stretch. Five of its 12 remaining series are against the three bottom teams in the American League. Boston comes closest to matching this schedule with contests against the lowly Oakland Athletics (53-72) and San Diego Padres (53-72), but these contests form part of a nine-game road trip that concludes in Toronto. Baltimore, meanwhile, will have to slip by the surprisingly resilient New York Yankees (63-61) three times and tame the Tigers once if they hope to reach the playoffs.
This says nothing about the remaining series between Toronto and Boston, Toronto and Baltimore, and Boston and Baltimore. These are the series that will likely make the real differences, and it’s somewhat comforting to know that the Blue Jays currently lead their season series against both the Red Sox (7-6) and the Orioles (7-6) albeit by the slimmest of margins.
What does all this mean? Unlike the period from 1994-2014, and moving past the excitement of last season, it means a very stressful month of baseball awaits us in September. It has me on edge.
*Featured Image Credit: freaktography UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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As a long-time Jays fan, I’ve invested more time in bad baseball than a sane person would allow. Fortunately, I was finally rewarded with some post-season action last year! This year?