How does Toronto Blue Jays manager John Schneider see the team’s surge in the race for a wild-card spot?
In an interview ahead of the Blue Jays’ home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday (June 26) at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Schneider was asked about the surge of the Seattle Mariners in the wild-card race.
Seattle currently sits in the second wild-card spot with a 71-56 record, 1.5 games ahead of Toronto. They’ve knocked Toronto out of the race and into the postseason. It’s the result of a scary 16-5 run in August.
At the center of the upswing is Julio Rodriguez. Through 19 games in the month of August, Rodriguez leads the team with a .405 batting average, .448 on-base percentage, .640 slugging percentage, four home runs and 23 RBIs.
“It’s discouraging to think about what J.Rod (Rodriguez’s nickname) is doing,” Schneider said, “but I think we’ve been in the same situation all season. We have talented players in that clubhouse. (“I think we’ve been in the same place all season long. We’ve got talented guys in that clubhouse,” he said, adding that watching Seattle make him feel like they can turn it around quickly, too.
“It’s not just one guy, it’s a group of guys. It has to come together with the pitchers. That’s why we feel comfortable with where we are. I’m really excited for the rest of the season,” he said, expressing his hope that the team can turn the corner.
Starting with tonight’s opponent Cleveland, Toronto has a 15-game homestand against teams with a winning percentage below .500, including Washington Colorado Oakland Kansas City. It’s a great opportunity for them to rebound.
“The expectation is to win,” Schneider said emphatically when asked about the 15-game stretch. “It starts today. It’s a long season, and at this time of year, for whatever reason, emotions and urgency can change very quickly. We expect to win a lot of games, not only in this series, but over the next two weeks or so. The players know that.”
Toronto will start the game with the following lineup: Wee Merrifield (second base), Bo Bissett (shortstop), Brandon Belt (designated hitter), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (first base), George Springer (right field), Dalton Bashaw (left field), Matt Chapman (third base), Alejandro Kirk (catcher), and Kevin Kiermaier (center field).
Schneider explained his decision to bat Springer fifth instead of first, saying, “He’s playing a protective role behind Bladdy (Guerrero Jr.),” and signaled that he’s sticking with the order for now.
Chad Green, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to pitch in Triple-A over the weekend.
Asked if he’s waiting for September 1, when the roster expands, Schneider said, “Maybe. We’ll see how he throws and then we’ll decide.”