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What to watch for as the Blue Jays enter the final stretch

The Blue Jays are enjoying their final off-day of the season with a 98.3 percent chance of making the playoffs.

After winning two games over the Mets coupled with the Tigers and Orioles both getting swept over the weekend, the Jays now own a five-game lead on their closest non-playoff competitor, the Seattle Mariners.

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So, basically, if Toronto were to lose every single game for the rest of the season, Seattle would still have to go 6-8 in their remaining games to pass them. And that isn’t even considering the buffer of teams Toronto has between them and the non-playoff teams, like Cleveland, who have lost six straight, and Houston, who now sits 23-24 after a 2-8 stretch.

Nothing is guaranteed — as fans who were around in 1987 will surely attest — but I think it’s fairly safe to say that the Blue Jays are going to be a playoff team. That doesn’t mean it’s time to take the foot off the gas, though. Instead, the focus heading into the final stretch of the 2020 season is getting the most favourable playoff position as possible.

Since the Jays finally arrived home at Sahlen Field in Buffalo on Aug. 11, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the American League, putting together a 21-12 record. They aren’t just a playoff team by default anymore, they deserve to be here.

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Getting home-field advantage will certainly be ideal this year. According to Jeff Passan, while Major League Baseball plans to hold the Division Series, the Championship Series, and the World Series in bubbles, the three-game wild-card round will be hosted at the higher-seeded team’s home park.

So, if the Jays can finish in the top-four in the American League, they’ll get to host a three-game series in Buffalo, which gives them a very obvious competitive advantage over their opponent. That means the Jays are chasing Minnesota/Chicago for the top second-seed position or Tampa Bay for the American League East crown in order to host the wild-card round.

This obviously won’t be easy as the Jays have a pretty difficult stretch to finish their season. They’re playing three games at Yankee Stadium, four games in three days in Philly, and then four games at home against the Yankees and three against the Orioles.

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Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has Washington, Baltimore, the Mets, and Philly to close out the season, which is a pretty light schedule. Even if the Rays had a tough go, it’s really hard to imagine the Jays making up the four games wins to pass them in the standings with 14 games left.

So, with that in mind, the things to pay attention to over the final couple of weeks are…

  • The race with the Yankees. Toronto and New York play each other seven times and that head-to-head will go a long way in determining who finishes second and who finishes third in the AL East. Finishing second means that you’re in the mix for a home playoff game and you’re more than likely not going to have to go to The Trop to face the Rays, which would be a fucking nightmare.
  • The race for No. 4. Taking care of business against the Yankees will allow the Jays to be in the race to host the wild-card round. It won’t be easy to catch either Minnesota or Chicago (whichever team finishes second in the division) but it’s more doable than catching Tampa, I figure.

Just win, baby. This is no longer about creeping into the picture or falling ass backwards into eighth place because everyone else is so bad. Keep rolling full speed ahead and blast into the playoffs with momentum and do some damage come October.

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