Back-to-back series wins, times when the Blue Jays bats produce back-to-back homers, solid pitching and for the most part error-free baseball, clearly the team has turned a corner following its aborted start.
Instead of waiting for the late innings to mount some kind of offence, the Blue Jays have taken the initiative early, the top of the order getting on base in setting the stage for the middle of the order to drive in runs.
In the second and third games against the host A’s, the Blue Jays had a combined 28 hits.
In three games in Oakland, only one error was committed, a ball hit to left centre off the bat of Khris Davis on a play that went from a single to Davis advancing to second in the bottom half of the eighth inning.
In three games, only once did the Blue Jays trail, a one-run first inning by Oakland in the series-opener Friday night.
Toronto responded in its top of the second by pushing across four runs and the beat went on.
Even when Ryan Tepera struggled in the eighth inning on Sunday, Ken Giles came on to record a four-out save.
As they enjoy a well-needed and well-deserved off day Monday, the Blue Jays can take solace in knowing they are playing their best baseball of the young season riding a four-game win streak.
The one disconcerting news item to emerge was the season-ending knee injury to starter Matt Shoemaker, who was hurt during a run-down on Saturday.
The next day, Aaron Sanchez left the game with a broken nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Sanchez wasn’t terribly concerned at the setback, but as he so rightfully pointed out only time will tell.
Sparkplug Freddy Galvis, who flashes his glove and arm each time he takes to the field at shortstop, left Sunday’s win with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with a leg injury.
The initial diagnosis was that Galvis did not pull any muscle.
“It’s great how we’re playing the game,” rookie manager Charlie Montoyo said following Sunday’s 5-4 win. “As you know our pitching has been there the whole time. Now that we’re swinging the bats we’re a lot better club. We’re playing great baseball.”
How long this stretch of solid play lasts is hard to tell.
Beginning Tuesday with San Francisco’s visit, the Jays continue their slate pitted against California-based teams with the A’s up next following the Giants series.
The Blue Jays will then wing it back to California for a three-game series against the Angels.
A series win in Minny followed by another in Oakland, the Blue Jays have created a bit of a roll for themselves knowing full well there are plenty of more games that await and with it more adversity.
“Even before that (series win against the Twins) we weren’t playing that bad,” Sanchez said. “There were a couple of one-run games that we lost. There were a couple of blowouts, but we’ve been playing good baseball these first few weeks.
“Balls are beginning to fall, bats are starting to come together, pitching has been great from start to finish. That’s the recipe right there. Continue to do that and a lot of good things will happen.”
Coming home from a 6-1 trip looks awfully good considering how many projected a completely awful season for the Jays.
But again, it’s early.
“Honestly, I feel like we’ve pitching all year,” said Justin Smoak, who has been smokin’ hot, currently in the midst of a nine-game hit streak. “Over this last road trip we finally started swinging the bats. Hopefully, we can continue to do that. If we do we’ll be in a better position to win ball games.”
In the most basic of terms, the Blue Jays have been playing winning baseball.
“When you pitch and hit and score runs you have a chance to win a lot of games. Hopefully we continue to do that. We play in a tough division and we have to be able to score runs to win games.”
PILLAR OF STRENGTH
Kevin Pillar returns to Toronto for the first time since his trade out to the Giants.
Pillar’s departure touched off many emotions, beginning with the centre fielder who loved his time in Toronto and genuinely appreciated the support he received by the fans.
His former teammates are looking forward to catching up with Pillar.
“He’ll be celebrated, as he should,” starter Marcus Stroman said of the reception he expects Pillar to receive in Toronto. “That’s my brother, that’s my guy. I’ve been with him in the organization since 2012. He’s pretty much family. He’ll get a huge round of applause.”
When he was being interviewed to get his reaction to the Pillar trade, Smoak broke down in tears.
“The fans loved him,” Smoak said. “We’ll see how that goes. I’m sure he’ll be excited to come back. It’ll probably be awkward for him and, honestly, it’ll be awkward for us who have played with him for the last four, five years.”
A MATT ON THE BACK
A few tears were shed and some heartfelt words were expressed when news came out of Shoemaker’s season-ending knee injury.
“He’s been awesome,” Smoak said. “He’s pitched well for us. You know, it was a freaky thing and it’s just tough, tough for him, tough for us. And, hopefully, he can get through this.”
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