Maybe the Toronto Blue Jays aren’t dead. Maybe they do have it in them to rally and perform the way most baseball pundits figured they could after major off-season acquisitions.
Up until about three weeks ago Toronto was the biggest disappointment in the majors. However, after Friday night’s play, when the Blue Jays defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 7-5, they were sitting at .500 instead of so far below the even mark as to be embarrassing.
Toronto was pretty embarrassing over the first month-plus of the season. Management had made a big trade, made free-agent signings, and hyped up the team as one that could win the American League East Division. Many of us were convinced that the front office was right. And then the team came out and flopped big-time.
The Blue Jays were terrible in April and only a bit better in in early May. Players that had been consistent their entire careers couldn’t buy a hit if they were a batter or buy a win if they were a pitcher. It was turn-your-eyes-away ugly. Injuries did not help one bit.
Yet the Blue Jays did not throw in the towel. They did get mad and now they have gotten even. And the way the division is shaping up the Blue Jays may still be in the hunt. Friday night’s victory represented a ninth straight win and it was a living-right moment. Rajai Davis won the game with a walk-off single. This also gave the Blue Jays 13 wins in their last 16 games.
Davis is one player not many have heard of outside of Ontario. Neither is Munenori Kawasaki, who was not the foundation for pre-season optimism for this franchise. He is Toronto’s fill-in shortstop because high-profile shortstop Jose Reyes, the All-Star acquisition, has barely been able to play (10 games so far, but he is at AAA for a rehab assignment). Yet Kawasaki’s new nickname may be “Mr. Clutch.”
It’s not as if Toronto’s woes have all been miraculously cured. One of the biggest worries is pitcher R.A. Dickey. A year ago Dickey was the darling of the majors. His knuckleball generated more copy than Kate Upton’s dating habits. Dickey won 20 games for the New York Mets, won the National League Cy Young Award, and gave every knuckleballer throughout history a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Not this year. He is getting clobbered as if he is throwing water balloons, not horsehide, up to the plate. Even in the Friday win Dickey was smacked all over the Rogers Centre. He didn’t get the decision, but in his six innings he surrendered six earned runs. Dickey’s earned run average is 5.15 and he is 6-8. That is not Cy Young-repeat stuff.
One thing that has helped the Blue Jays is the uncertainty prevailing in the AL East. The Red Sox set a torrid pace, but are slowly coming back to the pack. Tampa Bay started slowly. The New York Yankees are treading water with multiple injuries and the Orioles also started out slowly before picking up steam.
The result is that no one has a lock on the division and the Blue Jays’ winning streak put them within overtaking distance of everyone. It was not so long ago that this seemed likely to be one of Toronto’s most forgettable seasons. Now the Blue Jays have positioned themselves to be a factor in the division race.