There's something majestic and self-fulfilling about beating one of the worst teams in baseball. The Blue Jays did just that last night in the opening game of their three game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
It confirms your existence as one of the preeminent teams in the league. It encapsulates you with the thought of better things to come. Mostly, it provides a measure of reassurance that you can actually count on something for once in this strange sport where 162 games define the best team in baseball.
All this isn't to belittle or berate a team like the Angels. As professional baseball players, they're out there trying their hardest like every other team, while playing to the deafening tune of a 52-73 record. There's something admirable about that. About playing your hardest even though you know there's no remaining chance at accomplishing your dreams as a baseball player and winning a world championship. Truly, I say, there is.
Rather, this is a feeling as a Blue Jay fan that all that is, is how it is supposed to be. Rarely can you say that in baseball. Heading into the series, many throughout Blue Jays nation asserted that this is the time where the Blue Jays need to take advantage of their weak schedule. This is no doubt true as the Jays play host to the Angels for three games before the Minnesota Twins--who own a 49-76 record--make their way into town for a three-game stretch over the weekend. Anything less than four wins from the two series, from the Jays perspective, should be considered an utter failure. It has to be.
At this point in the season, it's no longer just a cliche to say that every game, every inning and every out matters. At least somewhat. This is the small sample size to end all small sample sizes. From here on out, everything that happens on the field and in some cases, off the field, will be magnified to the point of near volcanic eruption. A loss to a team like the Twins or Angels will incite calls on Mike Wilner's Blue Jays talk demanding someone's job title. It's just too important right now.
Luckily, the Blue Jays have fared well this season when facing less than successful opponents. In games against teams with less than .500 records, the Blue Jays have performed to a 24-20 record with their performance improving against teams ahead of the eight-ball given their 43-31 record. Sure, there is a slight difference in their win percentage (0.545 against the sub-500 teams and 0.588 against the over-500 teams) but this isn't exactly a night and day difference. We're shades within similarity here especially given the smaller sample size of the sub-500 category. Really, if the Jays win four of the remaining five games on the home-stand, they will surpass the winning percentage of the opposite category.
The importance of these games can't be undersold here. More than 45,000 people packed the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night against a last place team. If that doesn't sell you on the magnitude of this game, maybe nothing will.
At the end of the day, these are the games you look at the schedule and irrationally count as an automatic win. I do anyways. I look at the calendar as we head into the final month of the season and I try to count the easy wins. Three games against the Tampa Bay Rays, I see. Another trio against the Angels, I bank away.
We're supposed to win those games, I think. If only it were that easy.