MLB: Game One-Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles

Given the wild-card implications, a Blue Jays-Orioles game on Labor Day would have arguably been the biggest game of the day. It wasn't just a single game at Baltimore on Monday, though, as the two AL East contenders squared off in a doubleheader. Despite rain through most of the day, they were able to get both games in. 

The Blue Jays came through with a sweep (7-3 and 8-4) that could prove to be pretty significant. Let's dig in. 

Bichette stars for Jays

The first game was fun. The Orioles jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an Anthony Sandtander homer in the first inning. The Jays would score a solitary run in each the second, third and fifth to make it 3-1 heading to the sixth. The Orioles would score one in the sixth, but the Jays never let them closer and plated an insurance run in the eighth and three more in the ninth to round out their 7-3 victory. 

Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman was good, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts and no walks. George Springer went 3 for 5 with three runs scored and Teoscar Hernández homered. Oh, and Bo Bichette went 3 for 5 with two RBI. 

That was only in the first game. In the second, Bichette again collected three hits, but this time around all three were home runs. 

This was the 12th time this season a player has had a three-homer game, though we hadn't seen any since June 30. How about that? There were 12 three-homer games before July, none in July or August, and now we have our first in September. 

This was the 25th three-homer game by a Blue Jays player. The most recent was Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doing so on April 13 of this season. This was only the second time in franchise history a shortstop did it, as Bichette joins Chris Woodward (Aug. 7, 2002). 

On the day, Bichette went 6 for 10 with three homers, three runs and seven RBI. 

Playoff implications

Surely, the top goal for the Blue Jays in the regular season is grabbing the AL East title. They entered play Monday six games behind the Yankees for the top spot and a game behind the Rays for second. Both the Yankees and Rays won, so they top three now look like so: 

  • Yankees, 81-54
  • Rays, 75-58, 5 games back
  • Blue Jays, 75-59, 5 1/2 games back

Also, this is potentially a significant swing day in the wild-card race. The Mariners entered play Monday holding the top spot with the Rays and Blue Jays filling in the second and third spots, respectively. The Orioles were 2 1/2 games back of the Blue Jays for the final AL playoff spot.

The Orioles are now 4 1/2 games back of the Blue Jays for the third wild card. Had they swept the series, they'd only be a half-game out and even a split would have left them right back where the day started at 2 1/2 back. 

It's still workable, but 4 1/2 games in a month is a tall order against a team playing good baseball. 

Jays are hot

The Blue Jays have been an up-and-down team this season. After one of those down spots, they sat 61-54 on Aug. 16. They then won seven of eight. Then, they inexplicably were embarrassed in a three-game sweep, at home, at the hands of the Angels. The Jays were outscored 22-3 in those three losses. 

Still, the Blue Jays have now won seven of eight, again, since that series. 

Even with that outlier series in there, the Blue Jays have won 14 of their past 19 games. 

Moving forward

I noted that it's a tall hill to climb for the Orioles, but they have control over it. There are still eight games remaining between the two colorful bird teams in the AL East, including the final three games of the season. Those games are at Baltimore, too. 

On the Blue Jays' end, they have nine games left against the Rays and three against the Yankees. They can do some head-to-head damage against the Rays, continue to do it against the Orioles and then hope for some help with the Yankees. Taking the AL East remains a long shot, but it's not 100 percent off the table. The doubleheader sweep on Monday was another step in the right direction.