To say the Blue Jays have been impressive this season is quite the understatement. Considering last year’s hiccup after spent a fortune, is seemed skeptics were ready to pounce on them this year–again. And they did early, after sputtering at times early in the season. But after a long hot streak, the team finds itself amongst baseball’s summit-dwellers.
Interestingly enough, one of my last articles about the Jays was about how disappointing the bullpen was on the strength of a fantastic May and hot June. Toronto did go 2-4 four in their last home stand and were shutout three times in that short stretch, but it’s far from worrying time for Jays fans.
Toronto is set to go on a 10-game road trip beginning with their division rivals Baltimore Orioles, followed by the New York Yankees and finishing with a 3-game inter-league set against the Cincinnati Reds. With the O’s and Yankees both 5 games behind Toronto for first place, the Jays need to win the two up-coming series. Luckily for them they boast a great 19-11 road record and are 13-9 against the division–a quality that great teams have in abundance.
The Jays start off the 4-game series against Baltimore with their top three pitchers in Mark Buerhle, Drew Hutchison and RA Dickey. All three have been brilliant so far this season and have made it a hard time for their opponents. The Jays need to bank on their offense making a turn-around after the lack luster scoring over their last home stand. With the quality hitting prowess of players such as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the fans must trust that the hitting will come back and be strong down the back half of the season.
The Jays need to distance themselves as much as they can from the normally deeply talented East Division before the All-Star break comes around–we all know what happens after the all-star break when a few certain teams seem to come alive. The Yankees and the Red Sox will make trades to bolster their line-up (count on it) and for whatever reason it is this year, they will start to heat up in August and compete for a post-season spot.
The Blue Jays do not need to make any big trades this season unless they slip from top spot in the division in August. Young pitchers like Stroman and Hutchison are making the Jays future look really bright right now. As is the case with all teams, if they can get another starter without paying too high a price, it would be a good move–though one has to weight how many young arms a trade would cost.
It’s tough to predict whether the Jays can hold the top spot for the duration of the summer, but at the very least they will stay competitive. More than anyone, John Gibbons needs a successful season, so expect the pressure cooker in Toronto to be at an all-time high if teams start to reel in the Jays. So long as Toronto gets back to the things they do well, as they did throughout May and some of June as well, and the pitching remains strong and players relatively unscathed, it should be enough to give them a very realistic shot at post-season play.
…and it all starts with this 10-game road trip. Now that the Jays have lost a few games and are facing adversity, we will finally see who the real Toronto Blue Jays are.
On a personal note: It had been a while since I’ve written anything for Last Word, but life sometimes gives us a pitch that we don’t expect and sometimes we need time away from the things we normally love to do. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who have sent me their kind words and support, especially Michael Kovacs and Ben Kerr, who have been very supportive in this hard time and are allowing me to take time in coming back. I hope to continue my regular writing soon and I thank you as always for reading my articles.
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