For much of the first half of the season, the Toronto Blue Jays were one of baseball’s best stories. A year after heavily investing to bring new talent to Canada, it seemed like the Blue Jays were ready to reap the rewards of that investment. Jose Reyes was once again a dynamic force at the top of the lineup. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion were among the most feared power hitting duos in the league. Mark Buehrle found the fountain of youth and pitched like an All-Star. Now as Labor Day weekend arrives, the Blue Jays are a game over over .500 and languishing in third place in the AL East, seemingly out of playoff contention.
A three game series with a team all but playing out the string would seem like a terrific place to pick up some easy wins and move up in the standings. However, for the 2014 Bomber team, this is exactly the type of series that makes for a trap. The Yankees just lost two of three in Detroit after a five-game winning streak. They suffered a demoralizing walk-off loss yesterday in which a rookie starter completely shut down a Yankee offense that rocked former Cy Young winner David Price for eight runs less than 24 hours earlier. They have not had an off day in some time and appear fatigued. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays know they can play spoiler for the Yankees’ playoff hopes and would like nothing more than to do so.
This is an important series for the Yankees, because they need to win the series or sweep the Blue Jays to keep pace with their wild card adversaries. Every game for the next month will be like a playoff game for the Bombers. Every win will seem greater and every loss will seem lower. The key to making the playoffs for the Yankees, is to show a consistency they have been unable to produce all season and beat up on weaker teams. The Yankees need to stock up wins against the Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Rays as they push for a playoff spot. They still have big games against the Royals and Orioles on tap for September but if they Yankees don’t take care of business against the weaker teams in the AL East, those games won’t be big at all.