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MacArthur: Time's running out, Jays must dominate homestand

Scott MacArthur
8/22/2014 10:14:13 PM
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TORONTO – Now would be a good time to start stocking the clubhouses in Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle, New York and Cleveland with extra beer and fried chicken.

It will take an Orioles collapse the likes of the 2011 Red Sox for the Blue Jays to emerge American League East champions. The wild card scene, littered with the clubs mentioned above, is cluttered and becomes increasingly complicated the more teams jump between the Jays and the lead dog.

The math is simple. Entering Friday's play, the Tigers, leading the second wild card spot by a half-game over the Mariners, were on a percentage pace to win 88 games.

In order to get to 88 victories, likely the bare minimum of what it would take to make the postseason, the Jays must go 23-12 over their final 35 games. That's a winning percentage of .657.

The math is daunting. The manager, the coaches and the players know the math. But knowing the math and dwelling on the math, they insist, are two different things.

"No, I wasn't very good at math," joked manager John Gibbons. "Actually that was my best subject in school but nobody knows what it's going to take; just go out and win some games."

"I know that we need to play better than we have been playing," said Adam Lind. "It's still August. There are still a lot of games left, whether it makes it easier or not for us to get into the playoffs. There are still too many games left to start thinking about the end."

The Jays are back in Toronto for the longest remaining home stand of the season and the second-longest overall. The club will play nine games against three divisional rivals. First, the Rays come to town and they'll be followed by Boston, an off-day on Thursday and then New York.

Working off the need to play at least .657 baseball the rest of the way, The Blue Jays must win at least six of nine (.666) on this home stand.

"This is when you find out what players are made of when you get challenges like that," said Dioner Navarro. "Let's see what happens. We've got Eddie back, Lindy back. We've got five more weeks to play hard and try to accomplish something that hasn't been accomplished in 20-something years."

Since there's no carryover in baseball, the Jays can only hope the offensive slump which temporarily ended in Wednesday's 9-5 win over the Brewers is a sign of things to come.

"We're in a pretty good frame of mind. That's never really been a problem with this group," said Gibbons. "Every game's important."

The Blue Jays need a strong finish to make the playoffs. Failing a postseason appearance, a strong finish and meaningful games deep into September would set a better tone heading into spring training, multiple players said.

Another player confided to TSN.ca what should be considered obvious when factoring in the human subconscious: it's easier to want to be at the ballpark everyday, late in the season, when there's something on the line. The aches and pains which accumulate over a long year, exacerbated by Rogers Centre's decrepit turf, would not only be more easily tolerated but would go ignored if a playoff spot is in reach.

Questions about a starting rotation, full of them in spring, are resurfacing now that the group appears to be regressing. The club is waiting for the recent returns of Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind to help bolster an offence that's hit only nine home runs this month.

The problem is the waiting and the fact that there isn't any time left to wait.

The turnaround, if it's to happen, must begin now.

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