Blue Jays' aim now squarely on wild card in final week of season

Sep 26 2016, 8:04 am

Somehow here we are – the last week of the baseball season. It’s a long season, and the caution is always that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And it’s an especially long season for those of us who start paying attention during spring training (don’t judge – it’s a needed distraction during the dreariness of February and March!)

Yet suddenly, we are down to the final seven games and the Jays are trying to sprint to the finish line of this marathon.

This has not been the September anybody in Toronto wanted. Currently sitting just under .500 ball for the month, the Jays remain 5.5 games behind the AL East leading Boston Red Sox, who infuriatingly refuse to lose (an 11-game win streak at the end of September, come on now!)

But the Jays have won seven of their last 10, and the bats of Bautista and Donaldson have come back around.

And it’s true, Boston doesn’t have the division secured yet. And as anybody who followed the Jays in 1987 can tell you, nothing is guaranteed until a team has clinched (now let’s never speak of this again).

Still, it’s looking pretty likely that if the Jays make the postseason, it will be by the wild card game. The Jays currently stand 1.5 games up on the Orioles, with the Tigers and Astros still in the chase. Anything can happen this last week.

And with the last two series against Baltimore and Boston, it is no overstatement to say every game counts.

So it may come to this: 162 games played to have one, single make-or-break game that can take the Jays deep into October, or packing their bags for home.

I asked Jonah Keri, journalist, sports editor, and New York Times bestselling author (and all-around baseball expert) about the Jays’ realistic chances going into the postseason. Can they go deep?

“The Jays have to secure the wild card game first,” he cautioned. “They are playing the one of the most difficult schedules in one of the most difficult divisions (Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox). The other teams vying for the wild card have much easier paths ahead.”

“But I will say this, the Jays have the strongest pitching line-up of any of those teams. And who wouldn’t want to have J.A. Happ or Aaron Sanchez on the mound?

And if Bautista and Donaldson spark the offence, it could be a really exciting game,” he continues.

And while Jays’ fans nerves might not want that one ‘exciting’ game – everyone would take it over the alternative of the season ending in a week.

With one game remaining against the Yankees, and the next two series against rivals for the wild card and division, why not look at these final match-ups as a sort of playoff too?

Many of the players including Bautista, Encarnacion, Saunders, and Cecil will become free agents after the season – it’s safe to say the 2017 team won’t look the same as this year’s.

Let’s enjoy what we have left, and hope for the best. And if the Jays win the wildcard, then it’s a brand new ballgame (pun sadly intended). Everything resets for the ALDS. And probably Boston will finally lose.

But no matter what happens, treasure this final guaranteed week of Eddie, Joey, and the rest of the Jays. It’s been a fantastic ride.

Ruth KapelusRuth Kapelus

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