TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays are scary good at this point. Weakness? You'd have to look long and hard to find one. How's that for a scouting report?"We definitely feel good about where we are at right now," third baseman Josh Donaldson said.Donaldson was speaking outside another wild clubhouse
TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays are scary good at this point. Weakness? You'd have to look long and hard to find one. How's that for a scouting report?
"We definitely feel good about where we are at right now," third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
Donaldson was speaking outside another wild clubhouse celebration, the third one the Blue Jays have had in eight days. His team is playing its best at a time when the lights are brightest and stakes highest, and isn't that what championship teams always do?
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Toronto completed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series on Sunday night with a 7-6 victory in 10 innings.
For the second consecutive year, the Blue Jays are in the AL Championship Series, and they will play Game 1 against the Indians on Friday at 8 p.m. ET at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The ALCS will be broadcast on TBS, as well as Sportsnet and RDS (in French) in Canada.
In these three games against the Rangers, the Blue Jays had all of their many strengths on display, hitting eight home runs and scoring 22 runs.
Bullpen? It was nearly airtight with a 2.00 ERA.
Rotation? It might be baseball's deepest.
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Toronto has won six straight games, a streak that stretches back to the final two games of the regular season when it was still trying to clinch a postseason berth.
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The Jays followed those two emotional victories against the Red Sox in Boston by winning the AL Wild Card Game at home against the Orioles and then taking three straight against the Rangers to advance.
Toronto is a remarkable story on a couple of levels. One is that the Blue Jays' roster was reshaped, with 16 of the players on their roster at the beginning of the ALDS arriving in the past 24 months.
Manager John Gibbons, the man who has made all of the new pieces fit so seamlessly, said that his club changed for the better almost overnight. The Jays are 138-97, including the postseason, since Aug. 1, 2015. Only the Cubs have won more games in this stretch.
Gibbons calls catcher Russell Martin, a free-agent signing before the 2015 season, the "backbone of our team." He has some of the same praise for Donaldson, who was acquired that same offseason in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
"For one thing, they brought some toughness to us," Gibbons said. "The previous couple of years, I didn't think we had enough of that. They made a big difference, because you can have a ton of talent, but if you don't have some toughness, some gamers and some guys that are really motivated every day to win, you come up empty."
The Blue Jays occasionally get criticized for an offense that sputters without home runs. They make no apologies for this. They're comfortable with who they are and how they win.
"That's the kind of players we have," Gibbons said.
Here's the flip side: When the baseball is flying over the fence, Toronto is almost unbeatable. And right now, it's flying.
The Jays have hit 11 home runs during the six-game winning streak, and they started quickly on Sunday night by tagging Rangers starter Colby Lewis twice in the first inning.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run shot, and two batters later, Martin belted a solo homer. Those home runs began a tough day for Lewis, who didn't make it out of the third inning, forcing Texas manager Jeff Banister to use six relievers.
"Well, it definitely took a collective effort," Martin said. "I felt like this series was kind of an indicator of how our team is built. We're resilient. It's just nice to have a team that goes out there and battles -- guys that play hurt, guys play banged up, no excuses. Just really proud of this team and the way we handle ourselves."
Another part for Toronto is that playoff baseball isn't new. The Blue Jays eliminated the Rangers in a five-game ALDS last season and pushed the Royals to Game 6 of the ALCS before coming up short.
The Jays' season began with a collective resolve to take another step forward. So far, they're on schedule, with the Indians standing in the way of the franchise's first World Series appearance in 23 years.
"Now that we're in, we're enjoying it a little more," Gibbons said. "I sensed this whole series more of a calmness, confidence than I felt last year with everybody. And that's experience and the belief that they can do something. So we'll wait and see what happens."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.