It’s been common in years gone by to have heard Blue Jays fans complaining about how the Major League Baseball schedule disadvantaged the team. It seemed the Jays finished up on the road more often than they did at home, and in the AL East, that can be a significant disadvantage. But that’s not the case in 2016, and in fact, you can make an argument that the schedule from here on in may actually help the team to a second straight division title. Here’s a breakdown of the remaining games for the three teams battling it out atop the AL East:
Baltimore Boston Toronto
Games Left 56 56 54
Home/Away 26/30 22/34 25/29
vs. .500 or worse 26 33 34
Off days 4 4 6
(Note: .500 or worse teams include Yankees and Mariners)
The Orioles have been terrific at home, but are seven games below .500 on the road this year, and must play their last six on the road against the Blue Jays and Yankees. They still have one lengthy West Coast trip left, including a visit to San Francisco. They also have the fewest games against teams .500 or worse among the three teams.
The Red Sox are in the midst of a West Coast swing, and have another to come. While posting a respectable 24-22 record on the road, they only play 10 games at Fenway after September 1, and are home for only 3 of their last 13 (the season-ending series against the Blue Jays).
The Blue Jays have a couple significant things going in their favour. Only 20 of their final 54 games are against teams above .500. They also have a West Coast swing remaining, but it’s two series instead of three (LA Angels and Seattle, where West Coast Blue Jays fans are sure to make it feel like a home series). They also have 6 off days versus only 4 for both their competitors. This allows more flexibility for John Gibbons to not only give everyday players proper rest, but also to set up the pitching rotation to optimize matchups.
All three teams have series remaining with Kansas City and Cleveland, but the Orioles and Red Sox still have to play the suddenly surging Detroit Tigers. That’s offset by the fact they still have series against deadline sellers Arizona and San Diego – the Blue Jays are finished with them, but still have games against the Angels and Twins, who are well out of contention.
Given all of this, I would not be surprised to see one of either the Orioles or Red Sox fall off the pace of the division lead over the next six weeks. If the Blue Jays can take advantage of their schedule over that same time period, they could again end up being the team atop the AL East being chased in late September and early October. But as we all know, baseball rarely sticks to a script.