Monday, August 29, 2011
Blue Jays and Rays Are New Divisional Foes
By Ian Hunter
This season alone, the Blue Jays are 4-10 versus the Rays, and their track record doesn't bode well either. The past four seasons combined, the Blue Jays are 23-45 (.338) against the Tampa Bay Rays, compared to 26-40 (.393) versus the Red Sox and 30-36 (.454) versus the Yankees.
So if Toronto can rise to the challenge against a perennial contender like the New York Yankees, why do they have so much trouble with the Tampa Bay Rays? If anyone has an answer, I'm all ears. This series was just more evidence of the Blue Jays struggles against the Rays.
I got the same feeling in the pit of my stomach as when the Red Sox swept the Blue Jays at home back in mid-June. Toronto was outscored 35-6 in that series, and Tampa Bay has outscored them 24-6 ... and there's still one more game to play tonight.
It's a little disheartening because it really felt like over the past little while, the Blue Jays were really making some progress. The offense has been clicking, the starting pitching has been adequate, and the bullpen hasn't been awful.
Then comes a series like this against Tampa Bay where after treading water at .500 or above it since July 27th, the Blue Jays have now dipped below.500 for the first time in five weeks. The momentum they built up
Just more proof to show you how much of a dog fight it is playing in the American League East. Each and every single game is important, and sometimes you have to claw and scratch your way for those extra wins just to have a shot at the playoffs.
As Jonah Keri says, it's that extra 2% that helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays into the post-season. They didn't need to be astronomically better than their competition, they only had to be a little bit better. That 2% was the difference maker.
But for two teams that seem to have a very similar strategy, one team is 14 games above .500 and the other is one game below .500. Similar strategies, slightly different results.
Until Bud Selig imposes a balanced schedule, the Blue Jays are Rays are going to continue to meet approximately 18 times a year. And if this young Blue Jays squad wants to return to the playoffs, they're going to need to fare much better against divisional foes ... especially the Tampa Bay Rays.