After a game one loss to the Nationals on June 2nd, the Blue Jays sat 4.5 games back of first and seven games under .500.
The criticism for this team grew by the second, and rumours began to swirl that John Gibbons may as well have kept his bags packed and stayed in Washington as a tourist.
Prime Time Sports host, Bob McCown, had the skipper out of a job before game two even began.
On the back of Pillar and his first career multi-homerun game, Toronto rallied for 10 hits and a 7-3 win over the Cy Young candidate Scherzer.
This was the start of something special.
Toronto would go on to win eleven straight, tying a franchise record for longest winning streak, and tying the MLB best in 2015.
The Blue Jays turned into the team they were supposed to be, and are now 2 games back of first in the AL East. Yes, despite popular belief that the season was already over, or that they wouldn’t be able to contend without Marcus Stroman, the offense turned in a performance night after night that would make Babe Ruth smile. Toronto had 10 or more hits in nine out of the 11 games, capped off by the series in Boston where they scored 31 runs on 43 hits.
Over the course of the streak, we saw the emergence of a team that has an opportunity to do something special this year. We saw top-to-bottom productivity from the lineup. Ryan Goins had six base knocks and nine RBI against Boston, while Chris Colabello had 13 and 8 during the entire run. Hitters who were playing under a microscope started to do the things they needed to in order to be successful, and that they were.
Jose Reyes‘ average popped from .265 to .300
Russell Martin‘s average popped from .267 to .285
Kevin Pillar‘s average popped from .234 to .251
The streak didn’t come easy, though. Two walk-offs, one extra inning win, one complete-game shutout, and a massive come from behind victory in Boston was the recipe for becoming the most polarizing team in baseball. What hit home for me was the unselfish play. Whether it was sitting back on an 0-2 curve to advance the runner to second, or laying out to preserve a run, both defense and offense came together and continually found a way to get the job done. Not to be lost in translation, and I know I’ve done a ton of writing about the pitching staff, but eight out of 11 wins came with the opposing team scoring four runs or less.
The walk-off celebrations in left field, the Colabello come-from-nowhere hit streaks, the Gatorade showers…like all good things, must come to an end.
Ex-Blue Jays Noah Syndergaard made sure of that when he struck out a season-high eleven batters last night. Now, i’m not quick to jump down Alex Anthopoulos’s throat for the R.A. Dickey-Syndergaard trade. At the time of the deal, Dickey was coming off a CY YOUNG season and Alex wanted to make Toronto an instant winner with Bautista and Encarnacion in their best years. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but its tough to look at the future when there is a small window of opportunity.
This wasn’t the first time the Jays had a long winning streak snapped in heart-breaking fashion. Toronto won 9 games in a row in May of last year before a crushing 8-6 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals. The game draws an eerie comparison to what happened against New York about 24 hours ago. Edwin Encarnacion drove two over the wall, much like Bautista did in last night’s loss, and both happened in extras. Todd Redmond blew it last year, then Brett Cecil last night (and he declined to talk to the media). The Blue Jays would go on to sport a 14-17 record the next month, and end up missing the playoffs for the 21st straight season. The 2014 campaign should be a learning curve. If Toronto wants to have a shot at playing meaningful baseball come September, it will be about how they react to this kind of adversity. Tonight can be a step in the right direction when Scott Copeland takes on Matt Harvey.