Later today, the Toronto Blue Jays will take to the field at Rogers Centre for the final game in a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers. After that, the Cleveland Indians will be in town for a three-game series of their own.
Following that series, the Jays, outside of three games in Atlanta in the middle of September, will wind up the 2015 regular season with home and home series against their four rivals in the American League East: the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.
There’s about 28 games in total left, with the Jays ending the regular season in Tampa on Oct. 4. A couple of months ago, the Jays were well off the pace in the AL East, and it seemed that the team was destined to play out the string as they’ve done for over two decades since the team’s back-to-back World Series championships in 1992-93.
In fact, the Jays apparently “boast” the longest playoff drought in professional sports. When you think of all the crap franchises out there in the different leagues, it seems hard to believe. But every team in every league, at some point since 1993, has found a way to make it into the playoffs. While the Jays have been close (a few times anyway) they’ve always come up short. This year, though, the drought may finally end.
Heading into the season, the offense, as it’s been for a number of years now, seemed strong. Pitching, though, with plenty of young prospects in the mix, was expected to be a weak point. For the first half of the year, that’s pretty much how it played out. Lead by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, veteran catcher Russell Martin, and sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays were pretty adept at putting up runs. But too often pitching and defense would let them down, and they’d ring up a loss instead of a win.
Things started to turn around at the all-star break though. The Jays were eight or so games back of the Yankees at that point, but suddenly the pitchers were holding the opposition at bay. Buoyed by the progress the team was making, GM Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on a couple of huge trades prior to the July 31 trade deadline, acquiring all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies and perennial left-handed ace David Price from the Tigers.
Since then, the Jays have been on a tear. They’re 20W-5L so far in August, and have a 1.5 game lead over the Yankees in the AL East race. As noted above, they still have seven games against the Yankees, and I’m sure the Pin-Stripers and the other teams in the AL East would like nothing better than to derail the Jays’ pennant bid. But if the pitching and defense stay strong, and the Jays continue to hammer the ball like they’ve been doing, they’re not going to be an easy team to beat.