The Toronto Blue Jays are officially playoff-bound in 2022 and can finish no worse than the second wild card. Even though their ticket to the postseason is booked, there is still plenty to play for over the final three days of the regular season.
Home-field advantage in the American League Wild Card Series is still up for grabs and the Blue Jays have pole position to host the entire three-game set at Rogers Centre. Toronto's magic number to accomplish that is down to two, meaning any combination of two Blue Jays wins and Seattle Mariners losses will get the job done.
Seattle is one of Toronto's possible opponents in the opening round, as are the Tampa Bay Rays. So which team would be a better matchup for the Blue Jays? Let's take a look.
Record vs. Blue Jays this season: 5-2
Record since Sept. 1: 15-13
Season run differential: +63
The Mariners won the season series with the Blue Jays thanks to a devastating four-game sweep at the beginning of July. Toronto went on to fire manager Charlie Montoyo days later in what was the low-point of its year.
Seattle closed its season with a cakewalk schedule and will not have played a team with a winning record since Sept. 14. Playing those types of opponents can mask a lot of issues, so it's tough to get a read on how good the Mariners actually are right now. They have been playing without rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez for the past week and a half as he battles a back injury, and slugger Eugenio Suárez just recently returned from a finger fracture.
The Mariners' starting rotation is set up well for a three-game wild-card series as reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, prized trade deadline acquisition Luis Castillo and breakout sophomore Logan Gilbert figure to take the mound in some order. They support that three-headed monster with a bullpen that ranks seventh in the majors with a 3.38 ERA.
Offensively, the Mariners feature a lineup that doesn't look imposing on paper but still features pop from top to bottom, ranking 10th in MLB in home runs. Putting the ball in play isn't their strong suit, as evidenced by their cumulative .228 batting average that sits third-worst league-wide. This is a lineup that can be pitched to but there are plenty of landmines throughout.
It's also worth noting this is the first time the Mariners have been in the playoffs since 2001, so emotions will be running high regardless of who they play. If Toronto doesn't end up securing home-field advantage and has to travel to Seattle, the crowd will be electric and won't allow Blue Jays fans to take over the stadium like they usually do.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) October 2, 2022
Tampa Bay Rays
Record vs. Blue Jays this season: 10-9
Record since Sept. 1: 14-16
Season run differential: +62
The Blue Jays and Rays went toe to toe 19 times in 2022 with the Rays narrowly winning the season series 10-9. The two clubs played nine head-to-head contests in September with the Blue Jays winning five of them, so it's safe to say these rivals are evenly matched.
Like the Mariners, the Rays feature a starting pitching staff that sets up well for a short series. Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen are all available for manager Kevin Cash, with veteran Corey Kluber and the recently activated Tyler Glasnow also looming as options. Cash isn't afraid to pull a starter even if he's dealing and has the luxury of a bullpen with plenty of firepower, even if it's not full of household names. Tampa's relief corps owns a 3.27 ERA on the season and ranks third in the majors in strikeouts.
Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco are the two position players who garner the most attention, but the Rays are stocked with a lineup of scrappy players who can thrive when given the right matchup. The Rays rank in the middle of the pack or worse in all the major offensive categories but any team can get hot over a short series and the Rays aren't afraid to manufacture runs with small ball.
Cash and the Rays have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, including in 2020 when they went on to represent the AL in the World Series. The Rays swept the Blue Jays in the first round that year, so Toronto would have revenge on its mind if the two teams end up meeting this weekend.
Have your say
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— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) October 3, 2022
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