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Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki reacts after hitting a grand slam home run against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning at Rogers Centre. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki reacts after hitting a grand slam home run against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning at Rogers Centre. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Blue Jays look to get back in gear against last-place Rays Add to ...

There are just 20 games left for the Toronto Blue Jays to either sink or swim in the crowded playoff pool that is the American League East.

And even though the Tampa Bay Rays, by virtue of their last-placed status in the East, might be viewed as somewhat of a soft touch for Toronto as they bring their act into Rogers Centre for the start of a three-game series on Monday night, the Jays know better.

While the Rays will be sitting this playoff waltz out, a full 20 games out of first place with a 60-82 record, when it comes to playing the Blue Jays this season, Tampa Bay has just been plain ornery.

When they last met at Tropicana Park in St. Petersburg, Fla., at the beginning of the month, the Blue Jays were hard-pressed to win just one of three games.

In fact, no other team in the East has given Toronto as much trouble as Tampa Bay has this year, winners of nine of the 16 contests they have played so far.

The Rays are 4-2 at Rogers Centre this year, including a three-game sweep in May.

That is all a bit mind-boggling when you consider that Toronto is 9-6 against the New York Yankees, 9-7 against the Baltimore Orioles and 8-8 against the just-departed Boston Red Sox.

All three of those teams remain in the hunt for first place while Tampa Bay has been on the outside looking in for some time.

Compounding things from the Toronto perspective is that the Blue Jays have not been playing with much consistency of late.

The Blue Jays (78-64) just lost two of three in their big home series against the Red Sox (80-62) over the weekend, dropping them into a second-place tie in the East with the Baltimore Orioles (78-64), two back of Boston.

The Yankees (76-66) have the most ground to make up, sitting four games back.

In the race for the two American League playoff wild card spots, Toronto and Baltimore are both tied with the Detroit Tigers (76-66), while the Yankees are lurking two games behind.

One thing that the Blue Jays have going for them is that while they’re playing the Rays, the Red Sox and the Orioles will be beating on each other in a three-game set at Fenway Park in Boston.

If Toronto can somehow sweep the Rays, it could mean that they will make gains on either the Red Sox or the Orioles.

The Blue Jays will send lefty Francisco Liriano to the mound on Monday night against the Rays to face righty Jake Odorizzi. Marcus Stroman will start Tuesday’s game, with Marco Estrada being called upon for the series finale on Wednesday.

After the Tampa Bay series, Toronto will head out on its last extended road journey: four games in Anaheim, Calif., against the Los Angeles Angels and then three in Seattle against the Mariners.

After that, it is a steady diet of A.L. East foes, starting on Sept. 23 with a home series against the Yankees.

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