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The Toronto Blue Jays entered Saturday with a half-game lead over the New York Yankees for second place in the American League East. It’s unclear if the Blue Jays will be able to fend off the Yankees the rest of the way, but their chances of doing so will improve on Saturday afternoon, when they’re expected to activate shortstop Bo Bichette from the injured list.

Bichette, 22, has been sidelined since Aug. 15 because of a sprained knee. He hit .361/.391/.672 (182 OPS+) with five home runs and four steals in 64 plate appearances prior to the IL stint. Prior to hitting the shelf, he’d reeled off an impressive nine-game hitting streak that saw him go 16 for 36 with more home runs (five) than strikeouts (four).

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The Blue Jays were unable to get similar production from the cast of characters they rotated through shortstop during Bichette’s absence. Of the three main fill-ins — Santiago Espinal, Joe Panik, and the recently acquired Jonathan Villar — the highest OPS+ belonged to Panik, at 79.

Toronto is scheduled to play two more games against the New York Mets this weekend before heading to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday for a pivotal three-game set. The Blue Jays will meet the Yankees again in Buffalo for four games beginning on Monday, Sept. 21, so the two sides will essentially get to settle the second-place question (and automatic postseason berth) on the field. 

As for the non-New York portion of Toronto’s remaining schedule, the Blue Jays will play four against the Philadelphia Phillies to end the upcoming week. They’ll also play three against the Baltimore Orioles to close out the regular season.

The Blue Jays came into Saturday with a 96.9 percent chance at making the playoffs, according to SportsLine’s projections. Under the expanded postseason format, every first- and second-place team earns automatic entrance to October.

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