Toronto entered play on Monday night sitting 1 1/2 games back of the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card spot. That's not a difficult number to overcome, but the task is daunting considering there are five teams between Baltimore and Toronto in the standings.
The Blue Jays will need to be at their best during a portion of the schedule that sees the club play four series against teams above them in the standings before the end of the month.
"I just talked to the team about it briefly," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said prior to the opener of a three-game series against the Yankees. "This has got a chance to define our season a little bit more.
"There's going to be steps along the way, and different sets of challenges that we'll meet, or we'll encounter. This road trip presents one of those, and I think this has a chance to further define us, not only who we are, but what we're capable of."
Toronto's rough second-half schedule begins with three-game trips to New York and Boston. The club then returns home to face Oakland and Detroit before embarking on a West Coast swing.
The upcoming two weeks should provide general manager Alex Anthopoulos with a clear indicator about which direction his club is headed in. The timing is key considering the non-waiver Trade Deadline occurs on July 31.
The Blue Jays' daunting schedule -- which still includes 43 games against AL East rivals -- provided a perfect opportunity for Farrell to deliver a message to his troops during a closed-door meeting on Monday.
"When we came back from the All-Star break, I didn't have a gathering, so to speak, which is kind of a natural break in the schedule where you can take that as an opportunity," Farrell said. "But on the flight in here last night, I felt like this might be an opportunity to raise some thoughts. Not to raise additional pressure, but to say we have a chance to further define ourselves on this road trip."