Jul 21, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes (left) talks with third baseman Juan Francisco and first baseman Dan Johnson during a pitching change in their 14-1 loss to Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays 23-Day Stress Test

After suffering one of the season’s worst losses last night at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays fans collectively hold their breaths in hopes that this is not a sign of things to come. But when you look at the upcoming schedule, Toronto faces a barrage of playoff caliber opponents that will ultimately make or break the Blue Jays’ season.

Let’s take a look at the next 23 days of the Toronto Blue Jays’ schedule, or as I like to call it, the stress test.

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes will play a vital role in determining how the Blue Jays season turns out. Can Reyes still turn it up during the final stretch months? Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When you’re sitting only four games back in the American League East race, you know that your best chance to make up ground is to go head-to-head with the teams ahead of you in your division. Well lucky for the Blue Jays, they have that opportunity, as 12 of their next 16 games will be against divisional opponents.

The only problem with that schedule though?

How about the fact that the Blue Jays have not posted a winning record against AL East opponents since 2010 – when the team went 39-33. Since then, the Blue Jays have compiled an abysmal 92-128 (41.8 winning %) against divisional foes.

Needless to say, the American League East has truly been the Blue Jays’ Achilles heel in recent years.

But if the Blue Jays want to finally right the ship on what has been a dreadful stretch of mediocre baseball, they will have to rectify their AL East demons and overcome the likes of Boston, New York and Baltimore all in a three-week span. Not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.

But there is a silver lining to this stretch though. That is the simple fact that the Blue Jays are more than capable of hitting those teams’ pitchers, since they will only see Boston’s ace Jon Lester once, Yankees crafty veteran Hiroki Kuroda once, and Orioles blue chip prospect Kevin Gausman once.

Aside from those three matchups, the Blue Jays get to dig in the batters box against the likes of a struggling Jake Peavy, Chase Whitley, Brad Peacock, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez. Not exactly murderers row of pitchers right?

While the Blue Jays aren’t fortunate enough to avoid the likes of Seattle Mariner’s ace Felix Hernandez, or the Detroit Tigers’ one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, they do avoid Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Sale during this stretch of up-coming games.

The Toronto Blue Jays remain optimistic that slugger Edwin Encarnacion will be back in the coming weeks. But the organization remains quiet on his progress. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

While the hitting situation is manageable, the travel schedule presents an entirely different case. The Blue Jays will endure a stretch that has them flying from Boston to Houston – plus play on the same day. Then fly from Houston to Baltimore. Then Baltimore to Detroit, and from Detroit to cross-country Seattle to face off against King Felix. Then from Seattle to Chicago.

Not exactly the most favourable of travel schedules when you compare that to the Yankees, whose furthest trip out West for the remainder of the year is Arlington, Texas.

The Blue Jays will certainly have their hands full in the coming weeks as they try to rectify their AL East demons, while dealing with an adventurous travel schedule, and an injury riddled lineup. But hey, if this team truly believes they are a contender, they should relish the opportunity that this up-coming stretch of games presents.

The Blue Jays have a real chance to minimize their AL East deficit during this 23-day stress test. And the best part about these next 23-days? The outcome of this season lies completely in their hands.

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