Boston Red Sox in a tight race for the AL East division title
By Sean Penney
Toronto Blue Jays
Current Record: 75-57 (first in AL East)
Remaining Divisional Games: Orioles (4 games), Red Sox (6 games), Yankees (7 games).
Why they will finish first
A two game cushion in the standings gives them a leg up in the competition, although it’s not enough for them to get complacent. They have a loaded lineup led by Josh Donaldson, who is making a compelling argument for repeating as the AL MVP by producing a 6.8 WAR that ranks fourth in the AL.
Toronto’s pitching staff leads the league with a 3.80 ERA, giving them arguably the best rotation in the division. Veteran J.A. Happ is having a career year at the age of 33, tallying 17 wins so far to go along with a 3.23 ERA that puts him in the top 10 in the league.
Why they won’t
Aaron Sanchez has played a significant part in vaulting the Jays pitching staff to the top of the league in his breakout season, but he’s already surpassed his career-high in innings pitched. Toronto recently demoted him to Single-A in an effort to manage his workload. He’ll return to the mound Wednesday, but uncertainty over how much he can contribute down the stretch has to be a concern. A move to the bullpen would still make him a valuable asset, but would also significantly weaken their rotation. They traded for Francisco Liriano to help protect against the possibility that Sanchez could be shut down, but he provides a steep downgrade from the team’s ace.
The Jays have a difficult west coast trip coming up that takes them to Seattle to visit the Mariners and Los Angeles to face the Angels – two teams that have both beaten them in a series in Toronto since the break.
Jose Bautista is back in the lineup following his second stint on the disabled list this season. Since being activated on August 25, Bautista is 7-for-25 (.280) with a home run and three doubles. He’s hitting .250 with an .802 OPS overall in August, an improvement over his season stats. If Joey Bats can return to form down the stretch, as well as stay on the field, then he’ll give the Jays a boost at the top of the order.
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