Toronto Blue Jays: 5 Things the Team Needs to Do to Stay in the AL East Race

Matthew Appleby@@applebyincContributor IIJune 28, 2012

Toronto Blue Jays: 5 Things the Team Needs to Do to Stay in the AL East Race

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    The MLB season is just under half-way complete and for the Toronto Blue Jays, make it or break it time is almost upon them.

    Playing the A.L. East is a challenge. Their 38-37 record puts them in last place in their division but would be good enough to take second place in the A.L. Central for comparison's sake.

    This season has not been kind to the Blue Jays regarding injuries and the success of their division rivals.

    Here are five things the Blue Jays need to accomplish to in order to have a shot at playing for a wild-card spot in September.

Win at Yankee Stadium

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    The Blue Jays have only faced the New York Yankees twice this season, which means they will see a heavy dose of them in the coming months. 

    The Yankees currently lead the A.L. East, but the Blue Jays don’t see them until after the All-Star break.

    Division games are always important but the 16 scheduled against the division leader are crucial.

    The nine games scheduled to be played in Yankee Stadium should be highlighted on the Blue Jays calendar as must wins.

    The good news for the Blue Jays is that they hit a lot of home runs and Yankee stadium is known to give them up.

    Their 109 home runs place them near the top of the MLB, second only to the Yankees.

Finish Strong

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    The Blue Jays play seven straight games at home and three on the road heading into the All-Star break.

    Four of the home games are against the sub .500 Kansas City Royals, while three are against the Angels at home and three versus the White Sox in Chicago.

    The Blue Jays need to win each of these series. If they can, they will gain a sense of confidence knowing they can win while being marred by injuries.

    Along with the improved record, this confidence will be an important factor down the stretch.

    The four-day All-Star break will bring some welcome downtime to a weary baseball club that can look to start fresh on July 13 in Cleveland.

Get Adam Lind Going

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    When Adam Lind was optioned to Triple-A, there was the feeling that fans had seen the last of him in a Blue Jays uniform.

    In the Pacific Coast League, Lind hit .395 with 29 RBI in 31 games during his demotion. Lind is back to prove he can play in the big leagues, and the Blue Jays would love to see him succeed. 

    The Blue Jays have seen him hit for average and power—.305 with 35 HRs in 2009—so they know the talent is there.

    The Blue Jays offense could be a force to be reckoned with if the move to the minors and back has given him the wake-up call he needs to start producing.  

Keep Giving the Offense a Chance to Win

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    It’s no secret the pitching situation in Toronto is less than ideal.

    Kyle Drabek is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Drew Hutchison will be out until September at the earliest.

    Brandon Morrow looks to return in late July, which will be a welcome addition.

    For the most part, the pitching staff has stepped up nicely.

    Brett Cecil is 1-0 in two starts and has an ERA of 2.45.

    Aaron Laffey threw six strong innings at Fenway Park in his first start and Henderson Alvarez has appeared to dodge a bullet and will make his next scheduled start.

    The bullpen won’t steal any games for the Blue Jays but if they can keep games close, Toronto’s potent offense will do the rest.

    The Blue Jays have a knack for scoring runs. Their 367 runs place them 5th in the Major League.

Stay Positive

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    As much as it sounds like advice a mother would give their slumping 10 year old, staying positive holds true for this Blue Jays team.

    What makes this team so fun to watch and gives them a chance to win every night is their attitude. They are a young team, they are close off the field and their chemistry shows.

    Any disruption in that chemistry would lead to a drop-off in performance on the field, which would hinder their ability to make the playoffs. They need to continue doing what they are doing and keep enjoying themselves.

    A lot of things could go right or wrong for the Blue Jays the rest of the season, but accomplishing these five things would go a long way to seeing some October baseball north of the border.