How the Toronto Blue Jays Can Control the AL East Playoff Picture

Matthew Appleby@@applebyincContributor IISeptember 23, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19:  Ichiro Suzuki #31 of the New York Yankees steals third base as Brett Lawrie #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays is late with the tag during their game on September 19, 2012 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays may not be making a playoff push, but their remaining games will directly affect the playoff picture in 2012.

Of their remaining 11 games, the Blue Jays will play four against the Baltimore Orioles and four against the New York Yankees, two teams vying for the AL East pennant. The Yankees are one game ahead of the Orioles in the standings right now, but anything can happen in the final weeks. The Blue Jays sport identical 5-9 records against both the Orioles and the Yankees.

Since there are two wild-card spots this year, it is very likely both teams will make the playoffs, but who wins the division is still very much up for grabs. The other team in the hunt for the Wild Card is the Oakland Athletics, who currently hold onto the second available spot.

First the Blue Jays head to Camden Yards for a four-game set that includes a double-header due to a postponed game in late August. The Jays have been 17 games under .500 on the road this year and have yet to win a game in Baltimore.

The Jays will most likely send Henderson Alvarez, Ricky Romero, Aaron Laffey and Carlos Villaneuva to the hill in Baltimore to try to play spoiler.

The Blue Jays will then fly back home to face the Yankees in a four-game series. Brandon Morrow and Chad Jenkins look to round out the rotation before they turn it over back to Alvarez.

The Jays are slightly better at home than on the road, but that means relatively little when the only thing they can play for is to keep their loss total in the 80s. Needless to say it’s hard to keep motivation high in such a situation.

The Blue Jays are 3-2 at the Rogers Centre this year against the Yankees, but have not been able to win consistently at home all year.

Both the Yankees and the Orioles are in full-time playoff push mode and will be focused on getting the most out of their matchups with the fifth-place Blue Jays.

No matter how the remaining games of the season play out, the Blue Jays will have a major role in the outcome of the AL playoff picture. One thing to keep in mind is that the final series of the season for the Orioles and Yankees come against division rivals and may very well decide the fate of these two teams. Baltimore ends the year in Tampa Bay and the Yankees finish up at home against the Red Sox.