A series win over the Baltimore Orioles this week gave the Toronto Blue Jays some much-needed breathing room in the American League playoff race.

Canada’s lone Major League Baseball team is in control of its own destiny with four weeks left in the regular season.

Securing one of the three wild-card spots remains a likely outcome for Toronto. Home-field advantage in a first-round series is a possibility and there’s a slim chance of a first-place finish in the East Division standings.

Toronto kicks off a three-game set against the Texas Rangers on Friday night before returning to Rogers Centre for a key eight-game homestand against divisional opponents.

With a 76-60 record and some momentum thanks to a strong road trip, the Blue Jays appear well-positioned for the stretch drive.


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Six of Toronto’s eight remaining series will be against East Division opponents. A critical five-game series against Tampa Bay is on tap next week ahead of a three-game set against the Orioles.

Entering Thursday’s games, idle Toronto was a half-game behind the Seattle Mariners (77-60) and 1 1/2 games behind the Rays (77-58). The division-leading New York Yankees (83-54) were five games up on Tampa Bay and 6 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays.

In the wild-card race, Toronto was 4 1/2 games up on Baltimore and 7 1/2 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.

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Under the new playoff format, a pair of AL wild-card series will be played with the two higher-ranked division winners securing byes to the division series. The other division winner (No. 3 seed) will host the third wild-card team (No. 6 seed) in a best-of-three series while the first wild-card club (No. 4 seed) will host the second wild-card team (No. 5 seed) in the other.

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The Blue Jays have a 5.7-per cent chance of winning the East and a 92.1-per cent chance of securing a wild-card spot, per the FanGraphs website.


The one-two punch of Alek Manoah (14-7, 2.42 ERA) and Kevin Gausman (11-9, 3.12) at the front of the rotation has helped Toronto remain in the playoff picture.

Ross Stripling (7-4, 3.03) has been a reliable presence since replacing Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation, but he’s only worked into the seventh inning in two of his 19 starts.

Inconsistency has plagued Jose Berrios (10-5, 5.23) all year and Toronto’s No. 5 spot — previously held by reliever Yusei Kikuchi and most recently by the demoted Mitch White — may be filled by openers out of the bullpen depending on the opponent.


The return of left-hander Tim Mayza from a two-week stint on the injured list last month has helped stabilize a bullpen anchored by all-star closer Jordan Romano.

Yimi Garcia and trade-deadline acquisition Anthony Bass have been solid high-leverage options while sidearmer Adam Cimber has been a workhorse with a team-leading 63 appearances.

A high-velocity option like Julian Merryweather could be used more often over the next few weeks. And fireballer Nate Pearson remains an intriguing possibility as he continues to progress on a minor-league rehab assignment.

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John Schneider hasn’t been afraid to put his stamp on the team since being named interim manager after the midseason firing of Charlie Montoyo.

The Blue Jays have been more aggressive on the basepaths under the new skipper, who has regularly tinkered with the batting order. Schneider has also extended Romano’s appearances more often than his predecessor.

Romano, who shares the AL lead with 31 saves, worked more than one inning just once under Montoyo this year. Under Schneider, the closer has recorded four-out saves on four occasions and made a pair of two-inning appearances.

Schneider is 30-18 in his new role (. 625 winning percentage) while Montoyo departed when the team was 46-42 (. 523).


Pre-season expectations were high for the Blue Jays, who were initially pegged as one of the favourites to reach the World Series.

A strong 14-8 April record was followed by four months of middling results. Victories in eight of their last 10 games and a more balanced showing on the mound and at the plate have renewed post-season optimism.

Toronto has 26 games left to play, including nine matchups with Tampa Bay, six against Baltimore and three each against New York and Boston. The Blue Jays’ season concludes in early October with a three-game road series against the Orioles.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2022.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

© 2022 The Canadian Press