Looking back at the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2015 campaign, I tried to pinpoint one season-defining series for that club; one three game set which encapsulated the 2015 Blue Jays season.
I recalled the September 21-23 series against the New York Yankees. It was the series in which the Blue Jays essentially put the final nail in the coffin for the Yankees’ chances to win the American League East.
For those who may need a refresher, it was the series when Brett Cecil struck out the side to save a game, and the one when Russell Martin so famously had Rodger Brulotte shouting “Russell Russell Russell”.
The kickoff to tonight’s Blue Jays/Red Sox series has that very same feeling. It’s a pivotal series for both teams, but considering how poorly the Blue Jays have played as of late, it probably means more to the Blue Jays.
As the Blue Jays trail the Red Sox by a game in the standings, a series win by the Jays will go a long way to vanquishing some of the ghosts from their unsuccessful road trip. Toronto could make up some ground and even vault themselves back into first by Sunday night.
But losing two of three or heaven forbid, all three to the Red Sox? Then things could get ugly in a hurry.
Not to get hyperbole here, but this really is the most important series of the season for both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays find themselves in an unfamiliar position; for the first time in the better part of the month, the Jays are looking up at another team ahead of them.
The hunted has suddenly become the hunter in the American League East; now it’s the Blue Jays who are the underdog heading into this series against the Red Sox.
Maybe it’s because I’m more in tune with the Blue Jays than the Red Sox, but it feels like these three games are much more important to the Blue Jays than the Red Sox. Not that Boston doesn’t want to win, but there’s more at stake here for Toronto.
After a dreadful 2-6 road swing through Baltimore, Tampa Bay and New York, things have drastically changed since the Blue Jays last played at home. Most notably, the Yankees are suddenly back in the playoff picture once again, and the Orioles aren’t far behind in the division, either.
If ever there was a litmus test to see if the Blue Jays still have “it”, this weekend would be it. Facing one of the best starting lineups in all of baseball, and a few great starting pitchers to boot. If the Blue Jays can rise to the occasion, there will be a lot less worry in Blue Jays Land.
Not that a three game sweep at the hands of the Yankees is indicative of the Blue Jays’ chances moving forward, but I think that road trip raised a lot of questions as to the stability of this Toronto Blue Jays team.
This is a team which for the most part, has pitched well from Opening Day. And as the starting rotation has started to falter, you’re beginning to see why it’s imperative for the Blue Jays to get solid outings from their starters.
The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays (and to a degree, the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays) have always been a feast-or-famine team. When they can’t score runs, things can look pretty ugly at times. It can be maddening to watch games like Wednesday’s, where the Jays couldn’t even muster a single run.
However, that’s the formula which has gotten the Blue Jays to where they are today; second place in the American League East, 15 games above .500 and currently occupying a playoff spot.
I’m not going to say this is a “must-win” series for the Blue Jays, because there are still three weeks left in the schedule and 23 games remaining (16 of which are against AL East opponents). The Blue Jays head to Boston for their final series of the regular season from September 30th to October 2nd.
Considering the timing of those games and the proximity of the Blue Jays and Red Sox right now, the gravity of that series at Fenway Park will likely weigh much heavier than the series this weekend at Rogers Centre.
But with October looming, fate needs to change in a hurry for the Blue Jays. And it can start this weekend.