News / Toronto

What the Blue Jays need to do to make the playoffs

As the Jays prepare to open their final home stand of the season, we look at what they need to do to make playoffs.

The Blue Jays have had more than their fair share of faceplants lately as they struggle to keep up with the Red Sox for the AL East lead. At this point, the Jays are most likely headed for a wild-card berth.

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The Blue Jays have had more than their fair share of faceplants lately as they struggle to keep up with the Red Sox for the AL East lead. At this point, the Jays are most likely headed for a wild-card berth.

Needless to say, it has been an unnerving month for the Blue Jays.

In the three weeks since the calendar flipped, they have fallen out of first place, lost seven games in the standings to the Boston Red Sox and watched their chances of making the post-season shrink from a rock-solid 94 per cent to a much more tenuous 63 per cent, according to MLB’s projections, as calculated by Fangraphs.

They have since bounced back, buoyed by a boisterous crowd of British Columbians at Seattle’s Safeco Field to earn a key series victory against the wild-card chasing Mariners.

As they prepare for their final home stand of the season with 10 games remaining in the schedule, winning the division is still mathematically possible, but highly unlikely. Their chances of securing a wild-card spot, however, are pegged at between 70-75 per cent, depending on the forecaster.

Those are strong odds, but it’s no sure thing. The Jays have the fourth-toughest remaining schedule of any team in the majors, based on the aggregate winning percentages of their remaining opponents.

Playing seven of their last 10 at home, where they have a healthy .568 winning percentage and have drawn the highest attendance in the American League, will help.

Beginning Friday, the Jays host the New York Yankees — whose playoff hopes are dwindling but not quite dead — in a four-game series followed by a crucial three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles, against whom the Jays are currently jostling for wild-card position.

The Jays should aim to emerge from those games at least within striking distance of the Red Sox — who have looked unstoppable this month — as they head to Fenway Park for the season’s final three games.

Rookie GM Ross Atkins, speaking to the Star Thursday on the final off-day of the regular season, said despite his club’s wobbly start to September, it hasn’t felt any tougher to watch the games down the stretch.

“There might be heightened tension, like there is for players and fans, but that’s why we do it, that’s what we want,” he said. “The fact that it’s Sept. 22, 10 games to go and we’re in the playoffs is a great situation to be in and one that many teams aren’t in. We certainly would prefer to be at the top of the division, but we feel great about the team moving forward and our chances of getting in.”

Here’s a look at the different outcomes facing the Jays ahead of the final 10 games of the season:

To win division

Defending their division title is almost impossible at this point. Most projections give them about a two per cent chance. The Jays would likely need to win at least nine of their remaining 10 games while hoping the Red Sox go into a tailspin. The key for the Jays should be to narrow Boston’s five-game lead to two games by the time they get to Fenway and then they will at least be in control of their own destiny. Even if they are three games back they could theoretically sweep Boston on the road and then play a Game 163 tiebreaker the following day.

To win wild-card spot

This is the most likely scenario for the Jays.

If they play a little better than .500 the rest of the way they should end up no worse than the second wild-card spot.

To do that they’ll need to win two of their remaining three series. If they go 5-5 in their final 10 games — say they split the New York series and lose two in Boston — they could still nab one of the two wild-card spots, but they will need help to keep their rivals at bay.

How they can still blow it

Jays fans old enough to remember 1987 and that year’s epic collapse are sure to fear the worst at this time of year.

That team lost their final seven games of the season, letting a 2.5-game lead atop the division slip from their grasp in a most dispiriting fashion. Anything close to that kind of nose dive, and the Jays would face a similar fate.

In fact, if the Jays fail to win at least half of their remaining games their rivals would have to similarly falter in order for them to squeak through.