The Blue Jays are in pretty good shape when it comes to October baseball.
Per Fangraphs' postseason odds, the Jays have a 99.9% chance of making it to the MLB playoffs. It's not locked up yet, and won't be until they mathematically clinch, but all signs point to more than 162 Blue Jays games this year.
That doesn't mean the Jays don't have anything to play for, though. With 14 games to play, as of September 21, the Jays are right in the thick of a Wild Card seeding battle with the Rays and Mariners and still within reach of the American League East.
How will the final few weeks play out, and what are the potential postseason scenarios to watch out for? We'll break it down below:
The Wild Card Chase
As of September 21, the Jays sit alone atop the AL's Wild Card standings, two games up on the Rays for second and 2.5 on the Mariners for third. After that, five more games separate the Orioles from that final playoff spot, with Baltimore and the Chicago White Sox sitting on the brink of elimination.
In 2022's new playoff format, three Wild Card teams make the postseason from each league, with the No. 1 WC seed hosting No. 2 and the No. 3 WC seed traveling to the third-best division winner. The top two division winners get a first-round bye, while the other four teams play a best two-of-three opening series with every game at the higher seed's home park.
Another new wrinkle in this playoff format is the absence of Game 163s or tiebreaking games. If two teams are tied at the end of the season, either for a division lead or a final playoff spot, head-to-head team record is the first tiebreaker, instead of an added game to break the draw.
With all that in mind, here's the state of the AL Wild Card race behind the 84-64 Blue Jays:
Tampa Bay Rays
Current Record: 82-66, 2.0 back of Toronto
Remaining Schedule: Astros, Blue Jays, Guardians, Red Sox
'22 Record vs Blue Jays: 8-7
If the regular season ended today, the Rays would travel to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in the Wild Card round. The Rays haven't quite been the 100-win powerhouse they were in 2021, but they're still a feared team come October. They've been one of the most injured teams in baseball this year, recently returning key bats like Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, and Harold Ramirez, and some ailment questions still remain.
Infielder Brandon Lowe and pitchers Shane McClanahan (who left Tuesday's start with neck tightness), Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz have all dealt with ongoing injuries and may or may not return for the postseason.
The Jays have four final games against Tampa later this week, at the Trop, which will go a long way in determining Wild Card seeding and this Tampa/Toronto tiebreaker. The Jays must win the series 3-1 or 4-0 to ensure they have the tiebreak over the Rays.
Current Record: 81-66, 2.5 back of Toronto
Remaining Schedule: Athletics, Tigers, Royals, Rangers
'22 Record vs Blue Jays: 5-2
Currently, Julio Rodriguez and the Mariners are alone in the final Wild Card positio. But, they also have far-and-away the easiest remaining schedule, with remaining series against the four worst teams in the American League.
If the Mariners were to snag the top Wild Card spot, and the Jays came second, Toronto would have to fly across the continent after their final regular season game in Baltimore to match up against one of Seattle's top starters the next day.
Like the Blue Jays, the Mariners have four potential pitching options for a three-game playoff series, able to throw out Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby—who all have season ERAs below four. Ray, a 2021 Blue Jay, did not make the trip to Toronto earlier this year due to vaccination status, but may be eligible to pitch in a playoff series in Toronto due to recently reported changes to Canada's vaccination policy for travelers.
Current Record: 76-71, 7.5 back of Toronto
Remaining Schedule: Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, Red Sox
'22 Record vs Blue Jays: 8-8
With an 8-10 September, the Orioles' magical run seems to be losing momentum. With 15 games remaining on their schedule, the O's sit five games back of the final postseason spot and now 7.5 back of the Blue Jays.
It would take a miracle streak for Baltimore to snag the final playoff spot, and a tough remaining schedule doesn't help. Even if the Orioles were to win out (15-0), the Blue Jays would just have to finish 8-6 to secure a playoff spot over Baltimore.
Despite Aaron Judge's best intentions, the Yankees have fallen back to the AL East pack since the All-Star break.
A 10-6 start to September helped correct a 10-18 August from the Yankees, but the Blue Jays still sit 5.5 games back of the division lead, gaining 10 games on New York since early July. Per MLB playoff odds, the Jays' chance to win the division sit at just 3.1%, but three contests against New York in Toronto next will likely determine if that slim shot stays open. Sweeping that three-game set would pull the Jays close to the Yankees and hand Toronto the division tiebreaker (with a 10-9 record against NY this season).
After that series in Toronto, the Yankees then finish with three games against the Orioles and four at Texas. As slim as the chances are, passing the Yankees for the AL East would likely earn the Jays a first-round bye and home-field advantage until the ALCS, two prizes worth playing for in the final games of the year.
Potential Playoff Matchups
The Blue Jays can make the Wild Card round real easy for themselves by winning the AL East and securing a bye, but in all likelihood, they'll be playing in a best two-of-three series to determine the fate of their season on Wild Card weekend.
Barring a major push from the Orioles, White Sox, or even the Twins, the Jays' most likely Wild Card opponents are:
@ or vs Tampa Bay Rays
@ or vs Seattle Mariners
@ Cleveland Guardians
Finishing first in the Wild Card standings would allow the Blue Jays to host the No. 2 WC seed while finishing second would send the Jays traveling to the No. 1 seed. Finishing third is a bit interesting in MLB's new playoff format, as the Jays would then travel to the third-ranked division winner, currently the Guardians, and play the same two-of-three series all at the higher seed.
Despite the Guardians currently sitting with a worse record than all three of the Rays, Jays, and Mariners, the Guardians would host the series and face the worst Wild Card team by winning the AL Central.