Blue Jays face pivotal stretch in playoff pursuit

Toronto eyes strong finish with West Coast trip, division games looming

Blue Jays face pivotal stretch in playoff pursuit

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays find themselves two games back in the American League East with 19 games remaining. The final stretch of the season is here and while Toronto does have the ability to control its own fate, the Blue Jays also could use some help along the way.

Here's a closer look at the schedule for the five teams at the top of the races for the division title and the two Wild Card spots -- the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Tigers. Plus, in a tight AL playoff race, the Astros, Mariners and Royals are right on their heels.

Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have two games remaining vs. the Rays (8-9) following Monday's 3-2 win over Tampa Bay, as well as four vs. the Angels (1-2), three vs. the Mariners (1-2), four vs. the Yankees (9-6), three vs. the Orioles (9-7) and three vs. the Red Sox (8-8). That equates to a 36-34 record and .514 winning percentage against the remaining opponents.

What it all means: The Blue Jays are in the midst of a pivotal stretch. Toronto's next nine games are against teams that -- at least on paper -- should be there for the taking. The problem is that while Toronto has fared well against the top teams, it is a combined 10-13 vs. the Rays, Angels and Mariners. That will need to change because with the Red Sox currently facing Baltimore and more tough matchups on the way, the Blue Jays should have the ability to make a move.

Carrera's go-ahead solo homer

Red Sox

The Red Sox have six games remaining vs. the Orioles (7-6), seven vs. the Yankees (7-5), three vs. the Rays (9-7) and three vs. the Blue Jays. Boston is a combined 31-26 against those teams this year for an overall winning percentage of .544.

What it all means: With a two-game lead in the division, Boston has the ability to control its own fate, but the Red Sox also have a pretty tough schedule down the stretch. While every other organization has at least one series against a sub-.500 West Coast or Interleague team, all of Boston's remaining games come within the division. Just three of those are vs. the Rays, which means all of Boston's remaining games for the foreseeable future will have a direct impact on the race.

Orioles

The Orioles have six games left vs. the Red Sox (6-7), four vs. the Rays (11-4), three vs. Arizona (0-0), three vs. Toronto (7-9) and three vs. the Yankees (8-8). Baltimore is a combined 32-28, which at .533 represents the second-highest winning percentage for any of these contenders vs. their remaining opponents.

What it all means: Baltimore has the luxury of one remaining series vs. an Interleague opponent in Arizona that is 26 games under .500 and should not pose much of a threat when things are clicking for the Orioles. The key here is that the Orioles have six games remaining against the Red Sox and how they fare vs. the top-ranked team will go a long way in determining whether they win the division, a Wild Card spot or are on the outside looking in when this race is over.

Encarnacion's grab near stands

Yankees

New York has two games remaining vs. the Dodgers (0-1), then face the Red Sox (5-7), Blue Jays (6-9), Rays (9-7) and Orioles (8-8). That leads to a .467 winning percentage vs. those opponents, which ranks second last on this list.

What it all means: The Yankees have been one of the biggest surprises during the second half of the season. They appeared to be waving a white flag at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but instead an influx of youth has given them a shot with three weeks to go. New York has a tough Interleague series vs. the Dodgers to contend with, but if they remain within striking distance a final stretch with games against the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Orioles will give them a chance.

Tigers

Detroit has six games remaining vs. the Twins (11-2), seven vs. the Indians (1-11), three vs. the Royals (6-10) and three vs. the Braves (0-0). The Tigers are 17-23 against those remaining opponents, which ranks last on this list with a .439 winning percentage.

What it all means: The biggest advantage for the Tigers down the stretch is that they have six games remaining against the last-place Twins. Detroit could pad its win total during those two remaining series but the record vs. Cleveland is cause for concern. If the Tigers realistically want to make a serious move, they will have to win those series vs. Cleveland and then continue to beat up on the Twins.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.