Their time atop the division may have been short-lived, but thanks to a red-hot July in which they won two-thirds of their games the Blue Jays are once again threatening to take back the American League East. It wasn’t until Aug. 23 that they moved into first for good last year, so if they can wrest back the division lead on the road this week they face a much longer stretch to fend off rival advances. Looking at the last five seasons, it took an average of 90.4 wins to win the division. For the Jays to exceed that mark, they will need to win 32 of their final 57 games — a winning percentage of .561, a smidge lower than what they have done to this point. So unlike last season when they started to surge in August after their trade-deadline transformation, this year they can simply hope to stay steady. Although a little bit of a bump would make things less nervy. Here’s a look at how the final two months of the schedule shake out.
As is customary, the back end of the Jays’ season is loaded with games within the AL East, so they will have ample opportunity to either catch Baltimore or Boston — or, if they pull ahead, create some distance from them. By the same token, they could just as quickly slip out of contention with a tough series or two. Thirty-one of their final 57 games will be played within their division, including 19 games against the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, both out of contention. The biggest games, however, will be in the four remaining series against the Red Sox and Orioles. If the Jays can at least earn splits against Boston and Baltimore while beating up on New York and Tampa, they should be in decent shape.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Speaking of kicking teams when they’re down, the Jays will play 22 times against teams that currently have losing records. But nine of those are against the Rays, who, despite owning the AL’s second-worst record, have won six of 10 against the Jays this year, including a three-game sweep in May. The Jays have to figure out whatever hex the Rays have on them — and take advantage of the other soft spots on their schedule, including a late-August series against the last-place Minnesota Twins — if they hope to have a successful homestretch.
After playing just five games away from the Rogers Centre in July, the Jays will spend most of their final two months on the road — 32 games to be exact. Seven of those will be in the Pacific time zone, as the Jays embark on an unusually timed Anaheim-Seattle road trip in mid-September. They will also finish on the road at Fenway Park in Boston, in what could be a battle to decide the division. The Jays are 27-22 on the road but haven’t fared quite as well as at home, where they own a 32-24 mark.
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