What a difference one week can make. Last Monday, the Blue Jays limped out of Los Angeles with their playoff hopes quickly fading. But a series win in Seattle and by winning the first three of four games from the Yankees, the entire playoff picture has changed for the Blue Jays.
With one week left in the regular season and seven games left to play, the Blue Jays enter play today with a 93.9% chance of making the playoffs. The Blue Jays’ magic number to clinch one of the two Wild Card spots has dwindled to just five.
Meaning, any combination of Blue Jays wins and Tigers losses equaling five will guarantee the Blue Jays a berth in the postseason. Things could be wrapped up as early as Wednesday for the Blue Jays.
Barring a catastrophic meltdown by the Blue Jays or a huge run by the Detroit Tigers, Toronto will very likely be one of the two American League Wild Card teams.
If that’s the case, then the conversation turns to whether the Blue Jays will be the home or away Wild Card team. This is where their three-game series this week versus the Orioles becomes even more important; because winning two of three (or even sweeping) boosts the Blue Jays’ chances of being the first Wild Card even that much further.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Orioles might narrowly miss out on the Wild Card and it would be the Blue Jays playing the Tigers in the winner take-all game. While the Jays match up a little better against the O’s, at least the Jays hold the tiebreaker against the Tigers. So if for some reason the Jays and Tigers ended up with the same number of wins, the Wild Card game would be played in Toronto.
But going back to the Blue Jays’ magic number of five. That’s a very manageable number with seven games left to play. A week ago, I figured the Blue Jays would need to win at least 7 of their final 13 games to be fairly certain of securing a Wild card spot. They’ve since won 5 of 6 games and should very easily reach that coveted 88 win threshold.
Even if the Blue Jays only win 3 of their final 7 games, it still gives them a 98 percent chance of making the playoffs. If the Jays only win 2 of their final 7 games, their playoff odds drop to 80%. And heaven forbid the Blue Jays only win one game this week, their odds of them making the Wild Card are 41%.
Ideally, I think the Jays want to win at least win 2 of 3 against the Orioles this week to distance themselves from their closest competitor. And by the time the weekend rolls around and the Red Sox have long since down the AL East, Boston will be inclined to rest some of their regulars against the Blue Jays.
Yes, the Boston Red Sox are still tied with the Texas Rangers for the best overall record in the American League. But much like the Blue Jays last year, I’m not convinced that Boston will be pushing hard for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
A lot can certainly change between now and Friday night at Fenway; the Blue Jays may still be fighting for their playoff lives, or they may merely be jockeying to see if they’ll be the first or second Wild Card team. But those three games don’t mean nearly as much to the Red Sox as the Blue Jays, so don’t expect the BoSox to field their best players or start David Price or Rick Porcello.
Overall, I’d say I feel much better about the Blue Jays’ chances this week than I did last week. Now that the hard-charging Tigers have cooled off, the Red Sox disposed of the Orioles in four straight games, and the Blue Jays have won 5 of 6, the Jays are now in control of their own destiny.