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Momentum a 'breath of fresh air' for Blue Jays

Toronto caps homestand with third consecutive series win
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays might have been sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they haven't closed the door on the 2017 season quite yet.

Toronto picked up its third consecutive series victory to pull within three games of the second American League Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays have won seven of their past 10 games, with the latest coming on Thursday afternoon in a 5-3 victory over the Rays.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays might have been sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but they haven't closed the door on the 2017 season quite yet.

Toronto picked up its third consecutive series victory to pull within three games of the second American League Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays have won seven of their past 10 games, with the latest coming on Thursday afternoon in a 5-3 victory over the Rays.

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There are still five teams ahead of Toronto in the standings for that second Wild Card, but the club has pulled even with Tampa Bay and Baltimore. A long uphill climb remains and the odds are not in their favor, but for the first time since May, the Blue Jays are talking about being contenders.

"It's a breath of fresh air to be able to come to the yard ... expecting to win," Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "Getting those breaks that are going our way and sometimes making our own breaks. With that being said, we feel OK with where we're at right now, but we still have a lot of room to climb with a few teams ahead of us. Hopefully it comes down to the end of the season, and we continue to play well."

Video: TB@TOR: Donaldson belts two homers vs. Rays

 

Donaldson hit a pair of home runs on Thursday afternoon, and he has received most of the attention for Toronto's recent turnaround, but the recent streak goes well beyond that. Blue Jays starters have allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of their past seven games. The bullpen has allowed just one run over its past 17 innings and two runs over the past eight games.

The offence also has been doing its part for one of the first times this season, and it should come as no surprise that a power surge is the main reason why. Toronto's 37 homers since July 26 are the most in the Major Leagues over that span. Then there's the previously mentioned Donaldson, who is batting .379 (25-for-66) with 23 RBIs and a ridiculous 1.418 OPS over his past 19 games.

The end result is that the Blue Jays have won three consecutive series for the first time since May 23-31. They are back within three games of .500 for the first time since June 28, when the club was 37-40. The Angels, Royals, Mariners, Twins and Rangers are all still ahead of them, but contending is not as inconceivable as it once was.

Video: TB@TOR: Smoak discusses his go-ahead homer, Donaldson

"Obviously winning always helps, but at the same time, we felt like we should have been doing this all year," first baseman Justin Smoak said. Smoak clubbed the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning.

"It's just a matter of the last month and a half here, keep going out and doing it, and look up at the end of the year and see where we're at."

The road ahead will not be easy. The Blue Jays will travel to Chicago late Thursday night in advance of a three-game series vs. the World Series champion Cubs. Then a rematch against the Rays awaits before series against Boston and Minnesota. In September, all but three of Toronto's nine series are against the AL East. Of the three that aren't, only the Tigers are likely not going to be in the postseason hunt.

"We need to continue to play good baseball right until the end," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "There's no quit in those guys, and we've been playing good baseball. Good pitching, get some timely hitting. The long ball, of course, with us is a big part of it."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak