What to expect from the Blue Jays’ final series of the regular season against the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend
Photo credit:© Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
After last night’s win against the Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays are flirting with playoff territory and clinching a postseason spot will come down to how the AL West shakes up between the Rangers, Mariners, and Astros. The Baltimore Orioles have secured the AL East title after their win last night while the Tampa Bay Rays secured the top spot in the AL Wild Card and will host whoever finishes second in the Wild Card race, with third place heading to Minnesota to face the Twins.
It was a rough start to the week for the Jays, as the club lost two important games against New York where the bats went cold before exploding last night for six runs off of 13 hits while Chris Bassitt pitched a gem, going 7 2/3 without allowing an earned run. With this win in the record books, the Jays now turn their attention to the Tampa Bay Rays who will come in for a three-game series.
What will the Tampa Bay Rays roster look like?
The Rays enter today’s game with a postseason spot locked up and a pretty battered roster. Numerous pitchers are on the IL and done for the year in Drew Rasmussen, Shane McClanahan, and Shane Baz while Jose Siri, Luke Raley, and Brandon Lowe are currently on the 10-day IL and all at different levels in terms of returning to play. Also, Yandy Diaz is dealing with a hamstring issue but is still on the roster while the team is without Wander Franco as he is currently on the restricted list and unlikely to return this season.
To summarize, the Rays are battered and bruised, and with their spot not in jeopardy of the drama that is unfolding for the second and third Wild Card spots, there is a chance that the Jays will face a different squad than what they are used to seeing to give the regulars some rest before the playoffs roll around early next week. The club will likely not face Tyler Glasnow as he pitched on Wednesday and will likely be their Game #1 starter while the club will likely face Aaron Civale this evening to open the series. Following Civale, Zack Littell, Taj Bradley, and Zach Eflin are potentially all in play barring additional rest as the Rays had an off-day on Monday and yesterday.
Fiddling with the Blue Jays pitching staff
After last night’s win, Blue Jays manager John Schneider confirmed that Yusei Kikuchi would get the ball for tonight’s game against the Rays. This makes sense given the off days the Jays have had this week and also gives Hyun Jin Ryu an additional day of rest.
With the club looking to align themselves for a potential Wild Card race, the Blue Jays are likely doing everything in their power to align Kevin Gausman for Tuesday night, which would be game #1, and have him miss his Sunday start with somebody else taking the mound.
Magic Numbers and Looking at the Playoff Picture
The playoff ‘magic number’ is incredibly tricky this year because of the dogfight that is going on in the AL West and the tiebreaker scenario within the division and between the Jays and those three teams. Ultimately, the Blue Jays hold their own fate and winning games will seal it for them.
If Toronto wins all three of their remaining games, they will secure a postseason spot because they will hit the 91 mark, which Seattle and Houston both cannot catch at this point in the season. As of right now, Texas leads the division with an 89-70 record but Houston could catch them with their 87-72 record and Seattle would need to sweep Texas in order to do so as well, so a lot of the Blue Jays’ postseason plans depend on how the Rangers fair against the Mariners this weekend.
The Blue Jays do not hold the tiebreaker over Texas or Seattle, so they want to avoid everything in their power to tie with either team, while the Jays do hold the tiebreaker over Houston and can afford the luxury of sitting next to them in the standings with added ease.
Ideally, the Blue Jays win and this all doesn’t matter but they need to avoid the tiebreakers as much as possible this weekend, and winning even two games of the series has them hit the 90-win mark which would force Houston to do the same (which the Jays hold the tiebreaker over) and the Mariners would be unable to catch regardless with three games left in the year.
There are a crazy amount of scenarios that will really take better shape after tonight (plus my math is going all over the place and is an article in its own right), depending on whether the Jays win and whoever wins in the Rangers/Mariners game as well. Long story short, if the Blue Jays win two, out-of-town scoreboard-watching won’t matter anyway.
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