Blue Jays vs. Cardinals an Important Test for Toronto

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ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 21: Devon Travis #29 congratulates Russell Martin #55 after scoring on a two-run double hit by Justin Smoak #14 of the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on April 21, 2017 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that the Toronto Blue Jays have endured a less-than-stellar start to the 2017 season. The 5-14 Blue Jays are already 8.5 games back of the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, and it’s only April 25th. Monday’s 2-1 loss against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim was another dagger in the hearts of Jays fans, who are hoping that their club will get back on track soon. The “it’s still early” and “it’s an 82-game season” comments might turn to real panic if the Blue Jays don’t turn the ship around in the next few weeks. The Jays have a real opportunity to build confidence and momentum when they head to St. Louis on Tuesday to open up a three-game series against the red-hot Cardinals, who’ve won six out of their last seven games.

Blue Jays vs. Cardinals an Important Test for Toronto

Offensive Struggles

The Blue Jays offense has been an integral part of their success over the last few years, especially in 2015 when the Jays led the majors in runs and home runs. This year has been a completely different story, with the Jays sitting 29th in the league in runs and 23rd in home runs. Stars like Russell Martin, Devon Travis, Jose Bautista, and Steve Pearce are all batting well below .200, which is a recipe for disaster for a team that’s as injury-riddled as the Blue Jays.

The series against the Cardinals will provide a few opportunities for the Jays to get their bats in order, with Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Adam Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals in the series. According the ESPN’s Bat vs Pitch stat, batters on the Jays roster (including the injured Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki) have eight hits in 23 at-bats against Martinez, and 42 hits in 133 at-bats against Wainwright.

Injuries

The Jays have suffered some unfortunate injuries over the past few weeks, as J.P. Howell, Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Tulowitzki, among others, are all sitting on the 10-Day DL. Losing the 2015 AL MVP, the 2016 AL ERA leader, a five-time All-Star, and two of the team’s most solid pitchers would be an extremely tough pill for any team to swallow, but the Jays are especially in need of a jump-start.

Even winning two games in their interleague series against the Cardinals would go a long way towards improving team morale and building some momentum for when their injured players start coming back over the next few weeks. Veterans like Bautista, Kendrys Morales, Martin, and Pearce will have to step up over the next few weeks.

Setting the Stage

The end of April and the beginning of May will be instrumental for the Blue Jays in helping to shape how the next few months, and maybe even the next few years, look for the franchise. It may sound drastic, but the Jays position at the trade deadline, which is just over two months away, will determine how Ross Atkins, Mark Shapiro, and the Blue Jays front office handle their trade deadline transactions. The Jays are an aging team, and they could get some promising young prospects at the deadline if they continue to struggle and still aren’t within reach of the postseason. If they won’t contend this season, then maybe it’s time to start thinking about the future. It’s early and the Jays could still turn their season around, but it’s something to think about.

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