With two weeks left in the regular season, the Toronto Blue Jays lead the American League wild-card standings and have a faint chance of catching the New York Yankees in the race for the East Division.
Here’s a look at some of the numbers and stories as the Blue Jays continue their road trip with the start of a major four-match series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
The Blue Jays have a virtual lock on qualifying for the playoffs thanks to a strong September, which saw some distance between them and the teams chasing Toronto, Tampa Bay and Seattle for three AL wild-card spots.
The Toronto-Tampa Bay series could have a major impact on the fight for top wild-card position, which comes with a home field advantage in a best-of-three in the first round.
The top two division winners earn byes while the third-placed division winner hosts a third wild-card team (the No. 3 seed versus the No. 6 seed). The top wild-card team hosts the second wild-card entry (No. 4 vs. No. 5).
Entering Thursday’s games, Toronto was two games ahead of Tampa Bay and 2 1/2 games ahead of Seattle. The Baltimore Orioles were four games behind the Mariners.
The West Division-led Houston Astros were the only AL team to have secured a playoff berth.
The pre-leading Yankees were 6 1/2 games over Toronto and the central-leading Cleveland Guardians were six games over the Chicago White Sox.
The Blue Jays have a 98.6 percent chance of securing a wild-card spot and a 6.7 percent chance of winning the World Series, according to FanGraph odds on Thursday afternoon.
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Toronto’s chances of winning the East Division are listed on the website at just 1.2 percent.
After the Blue Jays’ current road trip ends on Sunday, the team will return to the Rogers Center for a three-game series against the Yankees, followed by a three-game weekend set-up against the Boston Red Sox.
Toronto and Baltimore will close out the campaign with a three-game set at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The series will conclude on October 5 with a post noon debut.
A cabinet order imposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements at the border is expected to expire on September 30, which could provide more options for opposing teams in potential playoff games in Toronto.
Border restrictions on travelers who have not been vaccinated forced many clubs to add players to the banned list for road games at Rogers Center this season.
Tampa Bay’s Brooks Raleigh missed a five-match series in Toronto earlier this month. Fellow Rays reliever Ryan Thompson was also on the banned list for the team’s trip north in the season.
The Mariners placed reliever Drew Steckenraider on the banned list for his solo trip to Toronto this year. Starter Robbie Ray, who won the AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays last year, didn’t make the trip either.
Home-field advantage in a playoff series is usually a team’s priority, but the Blue Jays should be a confident bunch if they open after a season on the road.
Entering Thursday’s game, Toronto has won 15 of their last 19 road games and claimed a 41-33 record from home. The Blue Jays’ .554 road winning percentage was second only to the Houston Astros in the AL.
Toronto’s crime away from home has shone. The Blue Jays lead the AL in road runs per game (5.15), road average (.267), road on-base percentage (.331), road slugging percentage (.427) and road ops (.758).
Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette started the month of September with a tear and almost a week to spare.
He took an impressive .424 batting average for the month in the opening match of Thursday’s series against Tampa Bay.
Bichette has scored 23 runs in September and his monthly OPS is 1.267. He leads all the big league hitters this month in hits, extra-base hits, total bases and RBIs.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 22, 2022.
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