Toronto’s New Mantra : “We Like Cleveland!”

A solid return to form by sore-backed Marco Estrada last night ensured the team their third straight winning season and gave fans some much-needed reason for optimism. So far those have been in short supply this month.

While September hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster for the Jays, sitting tied for second, 4 games back of Boston is hardly where they’d hoped to be, or envisioned themselves going into this month. Sporadic hitting, sloppy fielding and so-so starting have undermined a good deal of the momentum they had going for them and that was giving the fans a sense of buoyant optimism. However, a look at the standings does give some reason for continued hope of a run well into the post-season. The key, not surprisingly, is not only making the playoffs but somehow re-taking the division and ideally, catching Cleveland in the standings. These two objectives make it vital that they now play every game like it was a Game Seven. Silly losses are a luxury they can no longer afford.

The reason for the emphasis on the win column is a look at their opponents. At this point there’s no point even giving a polite “what if” to the idea that the Central and West aren’t already won; no one’s going to catch the Indians or Rangers. Likewise, barring some kind of epic collapse, (I suppose not impossible), Texas will end up with the highest number of wins in the league and ensure themselves home advantage throughout the playoffs and an opening series against the Wild Card winner. This leaves a matchup of Cleveland vs. the AL East champion for the ALDS. This is the sweet spot for Toronto.

No one wants the added pressure of a one game, winner take all, wildcard game added in, which is reason enough for Toronto to concentrate on a division title. Avoiding that and taking on Cleveland is clearly optimal, particularly with the Indians pitching aches and pains. (Carlos Carrasco has a broken hand and will miss the rest of the year; Danny Salazar having forearm problems and having not pitched in eleven days, leaving Corey Kluber, who’s in a good groove, Trevor Bauer {11-8 , 4.24} and Josh Tomlin {12-8, 4.75 with 35 HR allowed in 153 innings} to carry the rotation. This is a club Toronto could beat, especially in Toronto. The Tribe do great at Progressive Field (49-26, tied with Texas for most home wins) but are only a .500 team on the road. The Jays, if you’d forgotten, are 42-32 at Rogers’ Centre. Another stat the Jays have to like about Cleveland: the Indians are decent in interleague play, are cleaning up against their divisional rivals (41-21 through the weekend including an incredible 13 out of 14 against Detroit) but are a losing 32-34 against the AL East and West. Toronto is 48-36 against teams outside of our AL East.

The road to the World Series may ultimately run through Arlington but the Jays would do best to get warmed up for that by ensuring an ALCS matchup with the Indians- ideally, one that opens up in Toronto.

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