For a moment it almost seemed the Blue Jays had come back from the dead. But that 11-game winning streak that brought them to within five games of AL East lead seems very long ago.
But at least it did serve notice that the Jays weren’t a team to just be forgotten. There is plenty of talent here, and no one is still snickering about the many acquisitions that Toronto’s GM Alex Anthopoulos made in the offseason.
And while the Jays flashed brilliance against the White Sox, Rockies, Rangers and Orioles during that winning streak they’ve struggled since then managing just a 3-7 record in their last 10 games.
But things are looking up for the Jays. R.A. Dickey finally seems to be back on track, posting four quality starts in his last six. Jose Reyes has returned to the lineup. Rajai Davis is stealing bases and getting on. And Brett Lawrie isn’t far away from returning from the disabled list.
Now they are beginning to look like the team that everyone expected before the season started. Maybe they aren’t favorites anymore, but at least they look like they could be contenders. And while they do find themselves 11 games back, they’ve served notice to the rest of the division that when everything is clicking, that they are a force to be reckoned with.
The driving force during that 11-game streak was a home run binge that led to 76 tallies over that span, almost seven runs a game. That wasn’t sustainable, being close to two runs per game better than even the best offensive team in the game (the Red Sox, who are averaging 5.1 runs per game). But that doesn’t mean they can’t do better than the 39 runs they’ve scored in the nine games since the streak ended.
Reyes' return should help with that immensely. He is one of those guys who makes things happens, and since he’s returned he’s had eight hits in his first 24 ABs including two home runs.
But his power isn’t the reason the Jays brought him on board. What Reyes brings to the table is disruption of the opposing pitcher’s rhythm, throwing the catcher off their best games, better pitches for the big guys in the order and the ability to steal a game with his legs. You can be sure the Blue Jays wouldn’t be bringing him back if he didn’t have that tool ready to use.
Adding Brett Lawrie back will add more average, more base runners and more chances for the big bats to do damage. Even with those two back it probably doesn’t mean the Jays will be better than they were during that 11-game stretch. It’s not possible to be better than that, but Reyes and Lawrie will make them much better.
Even the pitchers will benefit from that. More runs will give them a better cushion and a larger safety net to work with. Not that they necessarily need it. After all the team has allowed three runs or less in half of their last 20 games. With Dickey back looking like an ace, Josh Johnson finally looking like he’s got a hint of his old game back, and Mark Buehrle and Esmil Rogers pitching decently, the Jays can push a lot of teams around.
The AL East better be paying attention and maybe even keeping an eye on the rearview mirror.
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