Blue Jays Weather Storm, Maintain AL East Lead
The month of May was as good as any team in baseball could hope for, for the Toronto Blue Jays. Winning 21 games and boosted by 16 home runs from star slugger, Edwin Encarnacion, Canada’s team opened up a five game lead over the chasing pack in the ferocious AL East.
As we flipped our calendars to June, it was business as usual for the Blue Jays, reeling off five wins including an away sweep of the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. However, when Shelby Miller of the St Louis Cardinals pitched a shutout on July 7th for the win, it started a nine-game stretch where the Blue Jays lost six games and were shutout twice more in the process.
For whatever reason, Miller’s shutout triggered an offensive slump. One the season, John Gibbons‘ team are hitting .260 and 92 home runs, the latter a major-league best. However in the month of June, they have dropped 15 points to a .245 average and have launched just 12 home runs in 14 games, dropping to seventeenth for June. They have also scored just 18 runs in those 9 games.
In three of the six losses, the Blue Jays have surrendered less than five runs, which most probably would have resulted in three wins last month. A sign of the times?
In the midst of its offense struggling however, the team’s pitching staff has buckled down the hatches and prevented disaster. Despite only winning three games of the its last nine, an ERA of 3.87 has maintained the Blue Jays’ lead over the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, and remains at five games, just one game less than at the start of the nine-game slump.
The Blue Jays of a year ago would have buckled, and did so, going 7-19 right after their 11-game winning streak. The team of 2014 is made of different substance. They have shown they are no longer susceptible to a land slide, good old-fashioned brick and mortar being enough to weather the current storm.
Toronto now faces another division rival, as they take on the Yankees in a three-game series in the Bronx. They will look to take at least two of three, with their three hottest starters on the mound — Marcus Stroman, Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison.
Stroman makes his debut at Yankee stadium on Tuesday, a childhood dream for the native of Long Island.
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo7) June 15, 2014
He will have his work cut out however, as the rookie squares off against Masahiro Tanaka, who sports a 10-1 record and 2.02 ERA, and he may have just caught the Blue Jays at the best possible time.