Blue Jays facing string of postseason contenders

Blue Jays facing string of postseason contenders

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have entered a crucial part of the schedule that likely will go a long way in determining in which direction their team is headed.

Toronto opened a three-game series against the Orioles on Tuesday night and has a three-game set vs. Detroit this weekend. After that, the Blue Jays head to the West Coast for another important series against the Mariners.

Each of the next three opponents is in the mix for a spot in the postseason. The Blue Jays owned the second American League Wild Card entering Tuesday, but to hold onto it, or gain ground in the AL East, these are the type of teams they'll have to beat.

"It's August, a couple of months left, but any time you're playing the team you're chasing [it's important]," manager John Gibbons. "Then of course Detroit comes in and they're a good ballclub, then Seattle and they're right there. These next nine, 10 days are important to us."

To say that Toronto has been inconsistent this year would be an understatement. The Blue Jays were arguably the best team in baseball during May, but it didn't take long for their six-game lead in the AL East to slip away.

The low point came during a lengthy road trip prior to the All-Star break. Toronto went 2-8 on the road vs. Oakland, Anaheim and Tampa Bay, which led to some writing the team off. Just when the doubters resurfaced, though, the Blue Jays recovered by taking their first four series after the break.

The inconsistency resurfaced over the weekend as Toronto finished its road trip with a series loss to Houston, but this is still a team that is very much in contention for a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1993.

"To be honest, entering the All-Star break, we were reeling pretty good," Gibbons said. "We could have gone either way, and then we came out playing real good out of the All-Star break and hung in this thing.

"As far as the Wild Card, you're trying to win your division and then you'll see where you are after that. It keeps you focused on that thing, we're trying to catch [first-place Baltimore] now and we'll see where we're at, at the end."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.