Photo Credit: Bluejays.com

Another Look At the Damned Schedule…

I feel like I’ve written about the Blue Jays’ schedule far more often than is healthy lately. Something is definitely going badly awry with your team’s season if your impulse is to frequently peak ahead and try to see where they might be able to make up desperately needed ground.

But the schedule right now is perhaps the Blue Jays’ biggest challenge. They’ve managed to keep themselves afloat as they’ve waited for their star players to get healthy again, and now that most of them (Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki will return Friday, J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano are making rehab starts) are getting set to return, the time for the club to pounce truly is now.

That’s easier said than done, obviously, but as I’ve noted in previous pieces on this topic, the Jays come out of the All-Star break with a tough ten game sojourn to Detroit, Boston (for four), and Cleveland. You can’t really expect to make up a lot of ground there. Frankly, you’d be pretty happy if you came out of a trip like that at anything better than .500. And with that trip ending just a week before the trade deadline, the best hope for those of us who don’t want to see the club turn into sellers is for them to re-establish themselves as contenders before the All-Star break.

That said, being sellers wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, if that’s what it comes down to. It’s certainly a better outcome than standing pat and then falling out of the race anyway — which is something that Matt Gwin explored this week for BP Toronto — but the thing about that stuff is… fuck it. Let’s see how these Jays can get themselves back in the damn race!

Which is to say, let’s comfort ourselves with a look at the schedule that maybe gives us too much hope that they can get back in the race…

The Texas Rangers come in first, and obviously they’re trash. However! They’re trash that the Jays can maybe look to as a model. As Cam notes in his series preview piece, “after a terrible start to the season, the Rangers capitalized on a period in the schedule in which they got to play the shitty Padres, Athletics, and Phillies, putting together a 10-game winning streak that brought them back to life.”

I’m not sure we can expect the Jays to start a streak of their own, but I do seem to recall the Rangers losing three straight the last time these two teams played *COUGH*. Plus they’ll be sending A.J. Griffin and Andrew Cashner to the hill in two of these three games — which, as long as you don’t look too hard at who the Blue Jays will give the ball to, maybe bodes well! Hey, and Yu Darvish and Marco Estrada on Saturday should be a tasty treat.

The Reds are next, and as good as Joey Votto is, and as slightly-less-mediocre-than-the-Pirates as the Reds have been this season, these are games the Jays should feel pretty good about. They’re also games that they really, really are going to want to win. That’s because after Cincinnati comes four with the stupid Yankees, who are playing way over their heads but are still dangerous and annoying as fuck. The Jays follow that series with six on the road in Oakland and Seattle — hardly daunting in terms of the teams they’ll face, but west coast road trips aren’t usually a recipe for success. It would be great to see the Jays top .500 through the ten games with New York, Oakland, and Seattle, but I’m not sure if we can ask much more than that. It’s all the more important, then, that they take care of business in the here and now — especially against Cincinnati.

The schedule swings back in the Jays’ favour after the west coast swing, as they get a Monday and Thursday off-day, book-ending two games at home with the Rays, and then a weekend set at Rogers Centre against the White Sox. That’s followed with a road trip that will see the Jays play four games in Texas, then three in Kansas City. That one could be a really important trip, as both those teams are trash, and so the Jays may have a chance to do some damage, and yet it’s just not as easy to win on the road as it is at home. But they’d probably better do it, because then things get even more tricky…

The Jays will close out the season’s first half by hosting Baltimore, Boston, scooting down to New York for three with the Yankees, then returning home for four with the Astros.

On one hand there are some great opportunities to make up ground on their AL East rivals there, on the other… uh… for nearly a month, from June 26th to July 23rd, the Jays’ schedule goes like this:

Baltimore – 3 at home
Boston – 3 at home
New York (AL) – 3 away
Houston – 4 at home
All-Star Break – four days
Detroit – 3 away
Boston – 4 away
Cleveland -3 away

Baltimore, Boston, New York, Houston, Detroit, Boston, Cleveland. Ten at home, thirteen on the road.

Gooooooonna want to have some ground made up before then, boys!

Fortunately for the Jays, I think there’s a real chance that they can make up a bunch of ground before going through that fuckin’ sawmill. The road trips next month to Oakland and Seattle, then Texas and Kansas City, will be crucial, but it can certainly be done. They just need to really start piling up the wins starting now.

Too many stumbles before then will put the Jays in a pretty tough spot. Er… will keep them in a tough spot.