Many fans have to fight the urge to watch the out of town scoreboard in the midst of a close race, especially earlier in the season. Baseball season is long enough that trying to keep track of rival scores often turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth, but as the calendar turns and the standings take shape it becomes harder and harder to resist. As it stands, the Blue Jays are 64-49 which means there are 49 games left to go. We’re quickly approaching the time of year when scoreboard gazing is perfectly acceptable if we aren’t there just yet.
Last year the Blue Jays made up a large deficit after the trade deadline because they played unbelievable baseball and happened to face the team they were chasing, the New York Yankees, 13 times. There’s a much less clear path to the 2016 AL East title with the Blue Jays battling the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox.
The 2015 formula was simple; beat the Yankees. There’s some added variables in the mix this season so it seems worthwhile to take a look at the remaining schedules for each team to see how they stack up. Obviously there’s still a lot of balls in the air as it pertains to injuries and hot and cold streaks but we can still get a general sense of what to expect and what non-Toronto teams Blue Jays’ fans will have to root for down the stretch.
The Blue Jays are in a much better spot than they were last year but are a little bit behind the eight ball in the sense that they have fewer games left than both Boston and Baltimore. If the race doesn’t open up soon the Jays could be in for some stressful nights in front of the TV.
On the positive side, the Blue Jays do have the easiest remaining schedule by several measures; they have the lowest remaining opponent’s winning percentage (as of Monday night) and the fewest series remaining against teams who have a .550 winning percentage or better.
Here’s a look at each team’s remaining series broken down by opponent’s winning percentage:
*Winning percentages are accurate as of Sunday 8/7
It should be noted that one such series for the Red Sox is a single makeup game against the Cleveland Indians but Boston still has some tough sledding ahead regardless. They’ll have the opportunity to beat up on teams like Arizona and San Diego but truly have a schedule of extremes; lots of dregs but plenty of elite competition.
Baltimore has a pretty balanced slate but has three series against some serious contenders. There will be some difficult nights for the Orioles ahead but they also have the benefit of some well-timed matchups with league cellar dwellers.
*Games Remaining totals are accurate through Monday 8/8
I highlighted all of the divisional matchups remaining to illustrate how pivotal these AL East games will be. The Jays don’t have a huge chunk of games left against the team they’re chasing a la 2015 but they will have six games to cut into the Orioles’ lead should they need them. Baltimore and Boston play each other nine times down the stretch so there’s still plenty of jockeying left to do. The Blue Jays will look to put the hurt on Tampa and New York, but will quickly become cheerleaders as the division bottom feeders have major opportunities to play spoiler in the season’s final weeks.
The Red Sox and Orioles both have a series in Comerica Park against the currently surging Tigers. The Jays are probably thankful that they’re done with Detroit for the year, as the Tigers have put a major dent into Cleveland’s lead as of late. Detroit is now a different team with playoff aspirations of their own so don’t expect them to lay down for Boston or Baltimore. Toronto fans should also be pulling for Oakland and Arizona, though their chances of success seem much smaller.
Senior Circuit Support
While it seems foolish to invest in the idea of the Diamondbacks taking multiple wins from their sets against AL East teams, the Orioles face two of the NL’s premier teams in San Francisco and Washington. Those seven games could be pivotal in determining Baltimore’s fate. Their home and home set with the Nationals comes around the same time as Toronto’s home dates with Minnesota and the Angels. A bad stretch against Bryce Harper’s crew could allow the Jays to blow the doors off this race.
The Final Week
Barring a crazy hot streak or prolonged slump, the Blue Jays will have the opportunity to affect the race firsthand in the final week of the season. The Jays will welcome Baltimore to the Rogers Center before heading to Fenway for the final three games of the season. If these three teams continue to remain bunched up, Toronto will have the ability to singlehandedly rearrange the postseason picture.
So while it may be a little too early to obsessively refresh the out of town scoreboard, it doesn’t hurt to keep the upcoming schedule in mind. This is all on paper and subject to change but it’s looking like the Jays caught some favorable breaks from the schedule makers. Whether or not they can take advantage of it remains to be seen.
Lead Photo: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports