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Blue Jays are nearing a potential season-defining 13-game stretch

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
30 days ago
It is go time for the Toronto Blue Jays.
At the quarter mark of the 2024 season, this club finds itself four games below .500 at 19-23, positioned last in the AL East Division. Only four other AL clubs possess a worse record: the Houston Astros (19-25), Oakland Athletics (19-27), Los Angeles Angels (16-28) and Chicago White Sox (14-30).
Nearly a month has passed since the franchise’s last series victory against the San Diego Padres on April 20. Since that series concluded, they’ve lost 13 of their previous 20 games, causing their playoff odds to fall to 23.3 per cent per FanGraphs entering Friday’s slate — the second-lowest odds in the AL East.
Source: FanGraphs
The good news for Toronto is there’s still three-quarters of the season left to play, and they’re about to enter a “soft portion” of their schedule — at least on paper — following this weekend’s series versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
After the Rays roll through the city, the Blue Jays will begin a 13-game stretch where they’ll face the rebuilding White Sox six times, the Detroit Tigers four times and the Pittsburgh Pirates for three as the calendar shifts from May to June. That should allow for an opportunity to make up ground in the standings.
The six games versus Chicago — sandwiched around a four-game set against Detroit — is likely a pocket where Toronto can generate most of its momentum. Coming away with a sweep or two, a feat this team has yet to accomplish in 2024, would be the perfect scenario. At the very least, though, anything less than winning four of six would be a major disappointment.
That is especially true regarding next week’s home series with the White Sox, whose -87 run differential is tied with the Miami Marlins for last in the majors. Plus, only four of the 14 wins they own have come on the road, although three of those occurred earlier this month.
As poor of a roster as Chicago features, it’s certainly capable of playing spoiler, just as they’ve done recently, winning three of their last four series heading into Friday’s opener against the New York Yankees. And the same goes for the Tigers and Pirates, too.
Both clubs possess talented starting rotations that could prove troublesome for an already-struggling Blue Jays offence, which currently ranks tied for 27th in runs per game (3.62). With Detroit, they’ll have to navigate a staff fronted by Tarik Skubal, a leading candidate for this year’s AL Cy Young, followed by Jack Flaherty and Reese Olson. At the same time, Pittsburgh’s rotation includes ace Mitch Keller and a pair of future stars in Jared Jones and Paul Skenes, baseball’s top pitching prospect.
A realistic expectation for this 13-game stretch might be an 8-5 record. But would that be enough to get the Blue Jays back on track? Probably not. To truly take advantage of this upcoming slate versus sub-.500 opponents, the team likely needs to come away with a 9-4 or 10-3 record, which means they’d have to complete at least one series sweep.
The importance of executing this late May turnaround is further heightened with Toronto hosting the Baltimore Orioles for a four-game series after its favourable two-week leg concludes. If they haven’t dug themselves out of this sizeable hole by then, another disappointing showdown versus the O’s could be the final nail in the coffin for their chances of avoiding a mid-season sell-off.
At which point, that fast-approaching cliff regarding the franchise’s competitive window could arrive much sooner than anticipated.

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