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Photo Credit: © Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Series Preview: Crunch Time

I really hate to say that a stretch of games in late June and early July could make or break a team’s season. But that’s where we’re at right now. The Jays didn’t capitalize on their soft schedule over the past couple weeks, going 5-8 in a stretch against the White Sox, Rangers, Royals, and Orioles, all teams they really need to beat in order to climb the ladder in the American League.

Now is when things start to get difficult. The Jays will begin a stretch in which they play the Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros, arguably the three best teams in the AL. It’s going to be a steep uphill climb, and if the Jays keep playing they way they have been recently, this is a stretch that could sink their season.

Should be fun, right?

Friday at 7:07 ET

Doug Fister claimed off of waivers by the Red Sox last week in order to add some depth to a rotation that has struggled a little bit with injury. Since joining the Sox, Fister has made one start. It came against the Angels, the team who waived him. He tossed six innings, allowing three earned runs on even hits and three walks while striking out six. Fister isn’t really a big strikeout guy as he relies on frequent use of a sinker to get balls on the ground.

Marco Estrada ended a chain of very bad starts with a good outing in Kansas City last weekend. Estrada, who had been pulled in the fourth inning in three of his last four starts coming into the Royals game, looked like the ACEstrada we know and love, holding Kansas City to three runs over seven innings. He’s faced the Red Sox only once this season. It came back in May in which Estrada shut the Sox out over six innings.

Saturday at 1:07 ET

The fact that Chris Sale plays for the Red Sox is disturbing. It was disturbing when they acquired him last winter. It was disturbing watching him carve up the Jays lineup back in April with a 13 strikeout performance. It’s disturbing seeing his name on the matchup list for this weekend. But that’s life. Sale is great. He’s only allowed more than three runs in a start twice this season and has been dominant in his last three outings. If only the White Sox could have sent him to the National League.

Francisco Liriano has been largely good since coming off the disabled list. He’s made five starts now, and only one of them, the one against Texas, was bad. Otherwise, Liriano is looking like the Liriano from last year’s stretch run rather than the one who was tossed away as a salary dump by the Pirates. In Liriano’s one outing against the Sox in April, he shut Boston out over five-and-one-third while striking out six. There won’t be much room for error against Sale.

Sunday at 1:07 ET

After an inconsistent start to the year, Drew Pomeranz has settled in nicely for the Red Sox. Over the past month, he’s made seven starts, allowing more than two runs in only one of them. Otherwise, Pomeranz has been the starter the Red Sox expected he’d be when they paid top dollar to acquire him from the Padres last year. He hasn’t faced the Jays yet this season, and only saw them last year in a relief appearance, so this will be a new experience for both parties.

Joe Biagini pitched well enough to win on Tuesday against the Orioles, but the bats gave him nothing. Biagini’s three earned runs over five-and-one-third innings was solid, but he struggled a bit with command, walking four Orioles batters. He’s been a mixed bag recently, but has certainly exceeded expectations for a guy who was supposed to be coming out of the ‘pen all season.

Thoughts…

The Jays roll into their series 6.5 games back of Boston for first place in the division. A good series, and week in general, could be huge in their climb up the standings. But after the way the Jays played against the Orioles, it’s hard to get your hopes up too high. Like I said earlier, this three-series span against Boston, New York, and Houston could make or break Toronto’s season. It’s already going to be an uphill climb, but something like a 2-8 or 3-7 week would be a massive hit, and would likely make the front office more inclined to sell at the deadline than add.