After taking two of three against the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays enter the weekend with a great chance to drastically improve their positioning in the wild-card race.
The formula for Toronto this weekend is simple. Win, and it gains ground on the loser of each Texas versus Seattle matchup. Lose, and one team will catch up or surpass the Blue Jays in the standings.
With the Houston Astros dropping their third straight series earlier this week to the Baltimore Orioles, they are also at risk of falling back into the wild card mix as they host the Kansas City Royals, who took two of three from the reigning World Series champs, just a week ago.
With so much on the line this weekend, let’s check in on each AL wild-card contender’s upcoming series to see how things line up.
IF THE POST-SEASON STARTED TODAY
No. 1 and AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles (95-58): Bye
No. 2 and AL West-leading Houston Astros (85-68): Bye
No. 3 and AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins (81-72) vs. No. 6 Texas Rangers (84-68)
No. 4 Tampa Bay Rays (94-60) vs. No. 5 Toronto Blue Jays (85-68)
WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE
For the second straight series, the Blue Jays took an AL East rival’s playoff odds and dropped them to zero per cent. While the Yankees’ playoff hopes were slim heading into the series, Toronto guaranteed they won’t be crashing the party in the final week.
Now, as things shape up between the three AL West squads and the Blue Jays, all eyes will be on the final seven games between the Mariners and Rangers. If one team can run away with the season series, it will likely push the other too far back in the wild-card chase.
However, if the seven games result in a 4-3 finish, that’s when things get complicated.
In its one remaining non-Seattle series, Texas is matched up with the Los Angeles Angels. Meanwhile, the Mariners will have to take on the Astros. With so many in-division games remaining, we might have to wait until the final day of the regular season to get a resolution in the AL West.
LOOKING AT THE WILD-CARD RACE THIS WEEKEND
Houston Astros: The Astros put together a late-game comeback on Wednesday to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Orioles and avoid falling a game back of their AL West rivals in the loss column. As Houston welcomes the Royals to Minute Maid Park this weekend, the Astros are in a similar spot to the Blue Jays.
If they drop another series to Kansas City, they will be out of the top spot in the division. As they hold just a half-game lead over the Rangers and Mariners, the Astros have Framber Valdez, J.P. France and Hunter Brown taking the mound in need of at least two wins before heading to Seattle on Monday.
Toronto Blue Jays: In their final road series of the season, the Blue Jays will be up against a Rays squad that has its eyes set on an AL East title. They sit just 1.5 games back of the Orioles and with a first-round bye on the line, will need to rack up wins to surpass Baltimore.
For Toronto, the series represents a chance to compete against a team firmly in the post-season picture. With their softer schedule in September, the Blue Jays haven’t won a series against a playoff competitor since beating the Cincinnati Reds over a month ago. They will give the ball to Chris Bassitt, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yusei Kikuchi in what could be a playoff preview this weekend at Tropicana Field.
Texas Rangers/Seattle Mariners: With identical records and a little bit of momentum on both sides, this Rangers vs. Mariners series has a chance to dictate how we view the final week of the season. A sweep either way and the losers would have a massive hole to climb out of.
But if there is a 2-1 finish, then we stay in the day-to-day scoreboard-watching period where things can shift at any moment.
As far as the pitching matchups go, Dane Dunning and Bryce Miller will face off on Friday, Jordan Montgomery will go up against Logan Gilbert on Saturday and Nathan Eovaldi and Bryan Woo are scheduled for Sunday. The Rangers have owned the season series so far, winning five of the six games between the two clubs, but if we’ve learned anything from the past couple of weeks, it’s that anything can happen from series to series.
PLAYOFF ODDS REPORT
Baltimore’s FanGraphs odds: 100% | Baltimore’s Baseball Reference odds: 100%
Houston’s FanGraphs odds: 90.6% | Houston’s Baseball Reference odds: 86.4%
Minnesota’s FanGraphs odds: 100% | Minnesota’s Baseball Reference odds: >99.9%
Tampa Bay’s FanGraphs odds: 100% | Tampa Bay’s Baseball Reference odds: 100%
Toronto’s FanGraphs odds: 79.3% | Toronto’s Baseball Reference odds: 82.8%
Texas’ FanGraphs odds: 68.7% | Texas’ Baseball Reference odds: 65.7%
Seattle’s FanGraphs odds: 64.5% | Seattle’s Baseball Reference odds: 65.1%