Two-and-a-half weeks ago, the Toronto Blue Jays were dead in the water. After losing a pair of close games at home to the Detroit Tigers, the Blue Jays sunk to 4.5 games out of a playoff spot.
One loss featured a herculean effort by Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray, but a passed ball brought in the game-tying run. In the other loss, the Blue Jays were one routine throw away from winning two of three. But the baseball gods had other plans.
Their season wasn’t over by any means, but they missed a golden opportunity to gain ground in the standings by losing a pair of games in Washington to the Nationals and two of three to the Tigers in Toronto.
Losing four of five games against bottom-feeding teams seemed like a fatal dagger in the Blue Jays’ playoff chances. But a funny thing happened as the calendar turned to September; the Blue Jays started winning again, and they haven’t stopped (for the most part).
On August 27, the Blue Jays had 4.6% playoff odds according to FanGraphs and were 6.5 games back of a playoff spot.
Now, a half game back. pic.twitter.com/uMQnyA8Srn
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) September 10, 2021
Winners of eight straight games and 11-1 over their last 12 games, no team is hotter than the Blue Jays. They just secured their first four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium since the 2003, and it’s only the second four-game sweep in the Bronx for the Blue Jays in franchise history.
Toronto could not have picked a better time for their September surge. As their Wild Card rivals like the Yankees and A’s have cooled off in September, the Blue Jays’ bats and arms are heating up.
For a while there, the Yankees were the talk of baseball as they used a 13-game win streak to vault themselves into the top American League Wild Card spot. But their lead has all but evaporated with the Blue Jays nipping at their heels.
Back on August 27, the Blue Jays’ playoff odds according to FanGraphs bottomed out at 4.6%, but at last checked, their odds have soared back up to 41.4%. The Jays also dipped down to 6.5 games back of a Wild Card berth.
After winning two of three against the Baltimore Orioles, sweeping the Oakland A’s in three straight and winning four games in the Bronx against the Yankees, the Blue Jays thrust themselves back into the Wild Card conversation.
Their lineup deserves a lot of the credit, but the truth is the starting pitching has been among the best in baseball. Thanks to contributions from Robbie Ray, Jose Berrios and Steven Matz, Blue Jays starting pitchers have the best ERA in the AL in the second half at 3.28.
And after a two week long slumber when the Blue Jays could not get a hit with runners in scoring position, their lineup awoke with the thunder of a sleeping giant. Since August 30, they’re averaging six runs scored per game.
For most of the season, the Blue Jays have struggled to put all these impressive aspects of their team together at the same time. The bullpen has struggled; the lineup has been anemic, and the pitching staff has dealt with a flurry of injuries.
But in September, when it means most, the Blue Jays are playing their best baseball of the season. And with 23 games left to play over the next two-plus weeks, the Blue Jays are back into the thick of it down the stretch.