With the Blue Jays sitting at 45-49 coming out of the All-Star Break, the next two weeks will decide if the team is a buyer or seller at the deadline, with the next month or so deciding whether the team will play a role in the September playoff hunt. As it turns out, the Blue Jays season will either turn around or continue to fail based on their results against teams from the West. In the next 24 games, the Blue Jays play teams from either the NL or AL West in 17 of them (along with four against the former AL West bottom feeders of Houston). A 10 game road-trip on the left coast could be a season ender if the team struggles.
Ten Game Homestand
What will likely decide what Alex Anthopoulos does at the trade deadline is a ten game homestand that starts off the Blue Jays' unofficial second half. Three games against division rival Tampa Bay are followed by an interesting mid-week series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After struggling in the first half of the season, the call-up of Yasiel Puig (who is still hitting just under .400), and the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco bolstering an already ruthless rotation has pushed the Dodgers back to a .500 record, only 2.5 games back of division leader Arizona. Luckily, Toronto will miss aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, going up against Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chris Capuano, and the aforementioned Ricky Nolasco.
After the Dodgers depart, the newest member of the AL West, the Houston Astros, come into Toronto for a four game set. The Astros are sitting at 33-61, and if Toronto has any intentions of actually getting back into the race they should win at least three games during this series.
Ten Games Out West
If the homestand goes well, the next hurdle to clear will be the annual road-trip along the West Coast that always seems to toss up some curveballs when the Blue Jays embark on it. Last year it was the late night dealings of Travis Snider and Eric Thames during a game in Seattle just before the trade deadline.
The road-trip starts in California with three games against the sneaky-good Oakland Athletics who are now leading their division at 56-39. The A's have allowed the fewest runs in the American League thanks in part to some good pitching by Bartolo Colon and solid bullpen work. This series should be an interesting measuring stick and is also the last series before the trade deadline.
Four games with the LA Angels of Anaheim follow, as the Blue Jays will feel like they're looking in the mirror as they go up against the 44-49 team. The Angels were heavily favoured to make the playoffs this year, like the Blue Jays, but faltered early and often mainly due to the starting rotation. The starters have a combined ERA of 4.57, which is 23rd in the league (Toronto is 29th with a 5.07 ERA). The problem with the Angels, as has been with the Jays this year, is the lack of depth on the starting rotation front. Joe Blanton (5.53 ERA), Jason Vargas (3.65 ERA), and Jerome Williams (4.60 ERA) all have over 10 starts leading to a lot of high scoring games. It hasn't helped that Albert Pujols is hitting .249/.324/.429, while Josh Hamilton has been even more miserable hitting .224/.283/.413, while being paid $16 million and $17 million respectably. Mike Trout (with a salary of $510 K) has continued his All-Star form with a slash line of .322/.399/.565 so it should be fun watching him face up against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays then head north to take on Seattle, where they always have a lot of road support from the fans on the West Coast. Seattle has struggled this year sitting at 43-52, good enough for fourth place in the AL West. The starting pitching hasn't been too bad, although Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma account for most of the good numbers, but the Mariners' offence has been pretty dreadful with no real dangerous hitter that the Blue Jays will have to avoid.
After an off day following the road-trip, Oakland then comes to Toronto to play four games to close out the West slanted 24 games that start Toronto's unofficial second half. This stretch should be interesting to watch as the Blue Jays are fairly healthy and should welcome back Melky Cabrera and Sergio Santos at some point during the next three weeks. If the Blue Jays want to get back in this race, I'd say they need to win at least 15 of these games, which will be a very tough task for this team. What say you?