Not only did Toronto sweep the Boston Red Sox, but its two primary wild-card rivals — the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners — got swept themselves, leading to a playoff odds graph that looks like this:
That extraordinarily improbable outcome has not only given Toronto a boost, it's given the rest-of-season schedule new meaning.
After getting knocked around by the Rangers, the Blue Jays needed to make up ground and their rivals' schedules seemed to be a significant obstacle. That's because each of the Rangers and Mariners have 13 games left, and seven of them are against each other.
When Toronto was 1.5 games out of a playoff spot — with both Texas and Seattle owning tiebreakers over them — the notion of those teams splitting wins was a serious issue. If one of the Rangers or Mariners dominated the other, an opening might be found, but the more likely scenario was that two teams with nearly identical records would be evenly matched.
That situation would likely prevent either team from posting a brutal record down the stretch, which at the time looked like something Toronto might need. The games between the Rangers and Mariners would lower each team's ceiling with fewer total wins available, but raise their floor with fewer total losses to be taken.
With the Blue Jays in chase mode, that high floor looked like a significant barrier to playoff entry. Now that the team is ahead of the Rangers and Mariners, that win ceiling will benefit them significantly.
Let's mock out how that might look:
If the Rangers and Mariners spilt the seven games (because Texas is slightly ahead in the standings let's say it goes 4-3) their records would look like this with six other miscellaneous games to consider.
Even if Toronto went 4-3 in an equivalent seven games, it would be at 87-70 — a better position than the Rangers, and 2.5 games up on a playoff spot with only six other games in play. Even a 3-4 record would put Toronto 1.5 games up on Seattle.
This won't all happen in chronological order as Texas and Seattle's series are split up, but in a situation where Toronto's rivals trade wins, all the Blue Jays have to do is be OK to put themselves in an excellent position to make the playoffs.
Things would also work for Toronto if one of their wild-card combatants dominated the other. A 6-1 or 7-0 run would probably be too much to ask, but if one team went 5-2 — let's say Seattle this time for variety— it would look like this:
That gives us the same situation where Toronto would be at the top of the race just by playing slightly above .500 and well above the team out of the playoffs. If you flipped it to the Rangers going 5-2, things would look even more promising for the Blue Jays:
Considering Toronto already has 83 wins, this would put the team in a stellar spot to distance itself from Seattle.
These are not the only situations that could come to pass. If the Blue Jays' sweep at the hands of the Rangers — followed by a literal best-case scenario weekend — taught us anything, it's that all the wildest outcomes imaginable are in play with this team.
Even so, it's clear that the way the schedule was structured once looked like an impediment to Toronto and now it appears to be an asset. That doesn't mean the Blue Jays are destined to appear in a wild-card series, but it seems if they play respectable baseball from here on out their chances are good.
It's possible that one of the Rangers and Mariners could go on a run and overtake them, but all the games the teams have against each other make it extremely difficult for both to do so.