The Toronto Blue Jays have a big battle ahead of them to make the playoffs this season, but that does not mean it is impossible
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The Blue Jays are in the hunt for one of the two AL wild card spots. A stretch of 17 games from July 26 – August 11 that saw a 13-4 record bolstered this effort. A big part of this success was 11 games in their actual home at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
In theory they had some winnable games ahead and a chance to gain ground. A stretch of games against the Mariners, Nationals and Tigers where the Jays could only manage two wins has some fans declaring their playoff chances all but done in 2021.
In looking ahead, I see a number of reasons why they could turn it around this season.
For the season, Toronto is 4th in MLB, 3rd in the AL in team runs per game at 5.05. Yet all of a sudden, several Jays have seen their bats get cold at the same time.
Call it a hunch but I can’t imagine this will continue for much longer. There is too much talent on this team for them to continue to struggle. They have four legitimate all stars in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez. Lourdes Gurriel Jr.has been a streaky player but his wRC+ of 160 in August should help. George Springer was making up for lost time with two straight AL player of the week awards (July 26-August 1, August 2-August 8) when he unfortunately had to go back on the IL with a knee sprain. The good news is that he has been progressing well and could be back much sooner than expected.
Once thought to be a weakness, the Jays rotation has become an area of strength. Toronto boasts three starting pitchers in the top 10 in AL ERA (Robbie Ray, 2.79, 2nd, Hyun Jin Ryu, 3.54, tied 6th, Jose Berrios, 3.70, 10th). Alek Manoah‘s 3.18 would rank him 4th if he had enough innings pitched to qualify for the era title.
Hyun Jin Ryu had a sub-par month of June but other than that, he has been a front of the rotation arm. Robbie Ray has reinvented himself with the Blue Jays and is a legitimate AL Cy Young award candidate. Rookie Alek Manoah has been a bit inconsistent but overall has pitched very well. He might not win rookie of the year but he should at least receive a significant number of votes.
Jose Berrios has been inconsistent in his short time with the Jays so far. He will need to pick it up if the Jays are to succeed.
Steven Matz’ season has been inconsistent but lately he has been good more often than not. Matz has a very fine 1.25 era in four starts so far in August. He is also highly motivated to succeed, being eligible for free agency after this season.
Ross Stripling is currently on the IL His 3.29 era in 14 games since he made mechanical adjustments in May should provide good depth if he can return from injury.
Jays management has reinvented the bullpen a few times in the last 12 months. From a team strength early in the season to the single biggest reason they were losing games in May. In season trades for Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards have helped to solidify relief options.
At the trade deadline they added veteran bullpen arms Brad Hand and Joakim Soria. The Jays are waiting for Hand to regain the consistency he had earlier in the season. Soria pitched one scoreless inning for the Jays before landing on the IL. Apparently he could be activated soon.
Toronto could get another big shot in the arm from AAA. Nate Pearson has been working his way back from a sports hernia. Jays management has said he will be used in relief for the rest of this season. He could provide another leverage option in relief for days when Jordan Romano needs a day off.
The Jays do have 10 remaining games against the 38-86 Baltimore Orioles and 7 games against the 54-71 Minnesota Twins. On paper, the Jays should be able to win a majority of those games. But as we all know, games aren’t played on paper. They will need to execute and actually win those games to gain ground.
With 38 games remaining and a 5.5 game deficit in the wild card race, the Jays definitely have an uphill battle. They will need to get very hot for the rest of the season to make the playoffs. I believe they have the talent to do it. Time will tell if they make it happen.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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