Blue Jays vs. Pirates series preview: Welcome to meaningful September baseball

Caleb Joseph joins Blair and Barker to discuss which big player needs to step up for the Blue Jays to ensure a playoff spot, giving his take on which hitter and starting pitcher need to be the catalysts for the team over the final month.

It’s crunch time for the Toronto Blue Jays.

After their first losing month of the year (13-14 in August), the Blue Jays are in a tight race for a playoff spot as the calendar flips to September. 

The Blue Jays, who will play games that matter in September for the third year in a row, begin a 10-game road trip with a weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates

The interleague series caps a nine-game stretch for the Blue Jays against teams with records well below .500, but Toronto’s record so far in this run is just 2-4. 

Here’s a look at the Blue Jays-Pirates matchup. 

Probable pitchers 

Friday, 6:35 p.m. ET/3:35 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (12-7, 2.60 ERA) vs. Johan Oviedo (2-1, 3.20 ERA) 

Saturday, 6:35 p.m. ET / 3:35 p.m. PT: TBD vs. Roansy Contreras (4-4, 3.57 ERA)

Sunday, 12:05 p.m. ET / 9:05 a.m. PT: Ross Stripling (6-4, 2.94 ERA) vs. JT Brubaker (3-11, 4.39 ERA)

All games on Sportsnet.

Latest on the Blue Jays 

The Blue Jays (70-59) capped a disappointing homestand with a 2-4 record after a 7-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. 

Fifth starter Mitch White had his second shaky outing in a row – not good news with his next start slated for a key series against the Baltimore Orioles. 

The Blue Jays cut a 5-0 deficit to 6-5 in the sixth on a three-run homer by Alejandro Kirk, but couldn’t get any closer. 

Toronto has now dropped into the third and final wild-card spot in the American League, two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners and 1.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. 

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Latest on the Pirates 

The Pirates (49-81) are one of the worst teams in baseball. But, hey, at least PNC Park is a beautiful place to spend an evening or afternoon (expect a significant number of Blue Jays fans to make the six-hour drive). 

August was the worst month of the year for the Pirates, who finished 9-19 after dropping two off three against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week. 

The Pirates will miss the playoffs for the seventh year in a row. 

Like the Blue Jays, the Pirates were off on Thursday. 

Wild-card watch 

The Orioles also face a lightweight this weekend as they entertain the AL-worst Oakland A’s. 

The Mariners are in Cleveland to meet the AL Central-leading Guardians, while the Rays host the AL East-leading Yankees. 

The Minnesota Twins, three back of Toronto, are in Chicago to face the middling White Sox. 

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September to remember 

The Blue Jays took their fans on a wild ride last September, going 19-9 and then winning their final three games in October. 

In the end, though, they fell one game short of a playoff spot. 

Familiar face 

Pirates GM Ben Cherington was vice-president of baseball operations for the Blue Jays before taking the Pittsburgh job in November 2019. 

Interleague play 

The Pirates are 4-11 against the AL this year, while the Blue Jays are 9-6 versus the National League. 

Back in blue 

Outfielder Bradley Zimmer will rejoin the Blue Jays for the weekend series after being designated for assignment on Aug. 15. The Blue Jays claimed Zimmer off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this week. 

Right-hander Casey Lawrence also was recalled from triple-A Buffalo on Thursday. 

Up next 

The Blue Jays begin a huge four-game series in Baltimore with a doubleheader on Labour Day. The road trip concludes with three games against the Texas Rangers. 

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