MLB Quarter Mark: Are The Toronto Blue Jays Turning It Around?
When Alex Anthopolous made 3 defining moves this off-season, acquiring Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck from the Miami Marlins, signing the 2012 MLB all-star game MVP Melky Cabrera, and acquiring R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets, many people, including myself were ready to hand the Toronto Blue Jays the 2013 AL East division crown and a possible deep playoff run. Through the quarter mark of the MLB season, the Blue Jays have fell far behind their expectations from fans, the media, MLB fans, and the players themselves. The Blue Jays currently sit at 17-24, 8.5 games back of their division rival New York Yankees, whom many thought would finish in the basement of the AL East. At many points throughout the season, I have thought the team might be on the cusp of breaking out, but only to have led to more disappointment from myself and others. However, after after coming extremely close to taking 3/4 from the Tampa Bay Rays, winning a series at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox, and sweeping a brief 2 game series against the San Francisco Giants, even though some may hate me for saying this, I finally can say, the Blue Jays are turning it around.
The past 1.5 weeks have been pretty good to the Blue Jays. The team split their 4 game road series against the Rays, a series which they almost won 3/4 games. In that series I saw the bats finally start to hit to their potential, by putting up some high run totals, including storming back from a 7-0 deficit in the 3rd inning to bail Mark Buehrle. The Red Sox series started with a 1 hitter from Jon Lester and good start from 39 year old Ramon Ortiz, who would later build on it against the Giants. Mark Buerhle should have won on Saturday if not from a blow save from Darren Oliver. Buehrle looked like his vintage form, painting his nasty changeup and his fastball on the corners, especially low in the zone. Buehrle wasn’t really falling behind hitters and truly attacked the Red Sox hitters. Buehrle has pitched 10 scoreless innings since his 3rd inning meltdown against the Rays and Buehrle coming into form as truly been ag great sign. Buehrle gets the start tomorrow against the Yankees, in a crucial 3 game series at Yankee Stadium. Buehrle will be looking to continue his recent dominance, and a good start against the Yankees would go an even further way to cementing himself as having his season back on track. The Red Sox series was closed out with a 12-4 trashing on Sunday, where starter Chad Jenkins pitched 6 innings and looked phenomenal, as did the bats.
The Jays came home and demolished the Giants in their 2 game series, sweeping them away. The Jays piled on 6 runs in the first inning off of Barry Zito, who has been extremely good for the Giants this season and another great sign was a great outing from R.A Dickey where he struck out 10 Giants hitters over 6 innings. Last night, combined with some crappy Giants defense the Jays piled on another 5 runs in the first inning, and went on to win 11-3, making Ryan Vogelsong continue to search for answers in his miserable season. As eluded to earlier, Ramon Ortiz bettered himself by a mile last night from his start against the Red Sox, going 7 innings of one run ball. As long as Ortiz provides solid innings, the Jays should continue to ride him until Josh Johnson or J.A. Happ return.
The Jays are riding a 4 game win streak going into their 3 game series against the Yankees, outscoring their opponents 36-15, and in the last four games the starters have combined to allow only 6 runs out of the 15 scored against them. Right now, the Blue Jays are hitting, pitching, and playing extremely improved defense compared to April. All 3 facets of a successful ball club have finally come together for the Jays and they are looking to start gaining some serious ground in the AL East. The Jays hitters have made extremely giant strides since the beginning of the Rays series, and the offense has really taken off since manager John Gibbons tinkered with the lineup against the Red Sox, a change that has Melky Cabrera leading off, Jose Bautista batting 2nd, Edwin Encarnacion 3rd, and usually will be J.P. Arencibia clean up. Adam Lind has seemed to re-discover himself as a hitter, which is an extremely welcome sight, Colby Rasmus may be striking out a lot, but his defense has been spectacular combined with his ability to come up with big RBI`s at big times, Maicer Izturis is starting to hit, Brett Lawrie seems to be starting to turn it around, Emilio Bonifacio has taken advantage of some playing time, and he as well is starting to hit again and utilize his speed, and Munenori Kawasaki continues to do a fantastic job filling in for Jose Reyes.
If the Blue Jays can continue to hit, and pitch, they will be able to build on their win streak. Coming into the season, the Jays were thought to be able to go on lengthy winning streaks due to their offense and starting rotation. It is finally looking to be coming true, as the 4 game win streak, even though it is small as of now, is truly something for the team to continue to improve upon and go on streaks of 10 wins in 12 games or 13 wins in 16 games. A streak such as those would pole vault them back into the thick of the AL East. The Red Sox have started to fall off, only going 5-9 thus far in May, the Rays are 20-19 but do not look like a team who will be able to put together long win streaks, and the Yankees are still getting amazing production from their fill-ins like Lyle Overbay, and early season comeback player of the year in Vernon Wells, both of whom should continue to get regular at-bats, even when the injured stars return (Curtis Granderson returned yesterday). The Orioles still look like they are for real but are starting to get hit by the injury bug. The AL East should have all 5 teams very close too, at, or above .500 by seasons end, meaning that nobody is going to run away with the division. This bodes extremely well for the Blue Jays. As long as they continue to play the way they have been lately, they will jump back into the division, and be able to make a run at a playoff spot, and injured stars like Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes will be back and integral parts to the run.
The 3 game series with the Yankees begins tomorrow with Mark Buehrle looking to continue his recent dominance against the Yankees Hiroki Kuroda. Saturday features Brandon Morrow, assuming his back is 100% against David Phelps, and Sunday features an outstanding pitching matchup in R.A Dickey against C.C. Sabathia. A series win would be the 3rd series win in a row for the Jays, and put them at 19-25, 6.5 games back, and a series sweep would put the Jays at 20-24, 5.5 games back. A series win or a sweep would have the Jays in an extremely good position considering how the start of the season has gone, and I feel the recent surge, is what to expect going forward. The Blue Jays are turning it around and will be back in the division race very soon. Blue Jays fans should be getting excited yet again.