Streaking Blue Jays clicking on all cylinders
Toronto's offensive juggernaut has potential to shake up AL East rest of the way
Sometimes, the whole thing feels magical. And every baseball player knows to ride the wave as long as it lasts.
That's how it is with the Toronto Blue Jays and this 11-game winning streak they take to Citi Field on Monday night for a two-game series against the first-place Mets. The Blue Jays were 23-30 and 4 1/2 games out of first in the American League East when this winning streak began. Now at 34-30, they're a game behind the Yankees and Rays and two in front of the Orioles.
That's four AL East teams separated by three games, and maybe reports of the demise of the division were exaggerated. It's the only one with four teams at .500 or better.
Back to the Blue Jays, who'll go for No. 12 in a row when veteran Mark Buehrle gets the ball opposite Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard.
Want to understand these Blue Jays? This weekend's three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park says it all.
Friday: The Blue Jays trailed, 8-1, after three innings and 8-4 after six. In the top of the seventh inning, they did what confident teams do.Video: TOR@BOS: Blue Jays score nine to come back in 7th
They put pressure on the Red Sox. Single. Double. Single. Single. Single. Single. In stacking one quality at-bat on top of another, they chipped away.
And the Red Sox cracked. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval's error contributed to things getting out of hand, and Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak's two home-run put the finishing touches on a nine-run inning. Blue Jays, 13-10. Winning streak at nine.
Saturday: The Blue Jays had a 4-0 lead. And then it was 4-4 in the 11th, when Russell Martin led off with a home run to set up a 5-4 victory. Manager John Gibbons mixed and matched five shutout innings from four relievers. His eighth and ninth hitters, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins, were 4-for-10 with three RBIs.Video: Must C Clutch: Martin's homer lifts Blue Jays
Sunday: Same old, same old. The Blue Jays scored six runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth. Pillar and Goins were 4-for-10 again from the eighth and ninth spots.
There are few things on earth sweeter than being part of a baseball team experiencing what the Blue Jays are experiencing right now. Players show up knowing they're going to win that day. Whatever has to happen will happen.Video: TOR@BOS: Blue Jays push across six runs in the 4th
Here's the thing that makes the Blue Jays so dangerous once this winning streak ends.
There'll be a lasting impact. The Blue Jays will know they're capable of special things. They'll approach everything with more confidence.
Why are they winning?
First, there's that offense. They've scored 77 more runs than any other Major League team. Their +71 run differential is baseball's largest.
They've outscored the opposition a whopping 80-40 during the winning streak. Third baseman Josh Donaldson is making another run at the AL MVP Award, having finished fourth and eighth in voting the last two seasons.
He leads the AL in Wins Above Replacement and is fourth in OPS. However, two of this teammates, Martin and right fielder Jose Bautista, are ninth and 14th in OPS.
But as Goins and Pillar showed over the weekend, contributions are coming from every spot. Then again, offense is nothing new for the Blue Jays. The issue was whether they could pitch as well as the Rays, Orioles and maybe even the Yankees.Video: TOR@BOS: Goins caps six-run frame with three-run shot
That's still the question. In Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and Drew Hutchison, the Blue Jays see the makings of a solid rotation. This may not be baseball's best rotation, but baseball's No. 1 offense plays behind it.
Toronto's young depth will be tested by a lat injury that could force rookie Aaron Sanchez onto the disabled list.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was already scouring the trade market for pitching help, but with 26 of 30 teams within 5 1/2 games of a playoff berth, prices are high.
Toronto almost certainly has the depth to acquire Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir. Problem is, there's likely to be a competitive market for all three.
For now, everything is clicking. The Blue Jays aren't a perfect team, but none of their AL East competitors are, either. No team scores runs the way the Blue Jays score them. And no team is feeling better about itself than the Blue Jays.