Yogi Berra said it best, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
The Toronto Blue Jays are the hottest team in baseball since the trade deadline as they glide through the MLB on their fifth 11-game winning streak in franchise history.
They are the first team since the 1954 Cleveland Indians to rack up a pair of winning streaks over 10 games in the same season.
I wrote about the first 11-game winning streak, so I figured I should write about this one as well.
The two streaks might have occurred with the same uniform, but it did not involve the same teams.
When the Jays won 11-straight in June, they were a one-dimensional team.
They were out-slugging their opponents to death. If they didn’t post crooked numbers, they didn’t stand a chance of winning with a pitching rotation that lacked oomph.
Their offence was white hot and sending balls to the moon during the first win streak. The Jays went 44-for-93 (.473) with runners in scoring position, hit .312 with 18 dingers and 123 hits.
The streak lasted as long as their offence could carry them. It was amazing they kept hitting at that clip for 11 games.
I stated that the winning streak would not last because the offence production was not sustainable and the rotation wasn’t helping carry the load.
Once the trade deadline passed on July 31, everything changed.
Coming into the deadline, the Jays had four areas for improvement if they wanted to break the mold and make the playoffs for a change.
They needed an ace, bullpen help, someone who could run down a ball in left field, and an upgrade at shortstop.
Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos treated the trade deadline like Jose Bautista treats a hanging curveball; he crushed it.
The Blue Jays were 7.5 games behind the division leading New York Yankees when they acquired their saviors.
Superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki tightened up their defence at the most important position, and by placing him at the top of their order, opposing pitchers must feel like they are pitching out of a jam after the first pitch.
People forget the Ben Revere led the National League in hits last year and made one of the craziest catches in recent memory while with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Former Jays’ shortstop Jose Reyes was having the worst defensive season of his career and the Jays were platooning players in left field that had no experience in left field.
The improved defence minimized scoring chances and allowed their pitchers not to be afraid of pitching to contact.
By adding veteran relievers Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins, it allowed roles to be established in the Jays’ bullpen.
At the beginning of the season, the Jays went through multiple closers and couldn’t figure out the right combination to get hitters out. These hard throwing vets have allowed other relievers to become comfortable and get into a routine.
It helped the eighth and ninth inning the most; winning time. Aaron Sanchez owns the eighth and Roberto Osuna is the man in the ninth inning.
Sanchez is holding hitters to a 0.74 average and carries a 0.35 WHIP. Osuna is just as impressive with opponents hitting .186 and has a 0.89 WHIP.
Just look at what the Kansas City Royals did with a powerhouse bullpen last year. They shortened games with fireballers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. The game was over after the fifth inning. They rode that bullpen all the way to Game 7 of the World Series.
Having a reliable bullpen tacked years back onto my life that stress stole from April to July.
But in order for the bullpen to have a chance at the save, the starters had to turn the ball over with the lead.
The Jays’ pitching staff was struggling before the trade deadline. They were trying to plug holes in the rotation with scuds like Felix Dubront, Matt Boyd and Scott Copeland.
They held the 11th best pitching staff in baseball before the Tulo trade, now they are the best in baseball with a 1.98 ERA and they’re holding opponents to a .179 average since.
Their rotation gelled after acquiring lefty ace and uber-rental pitcher, David Price.
Price is the thoroughbred that the Jays haven’t employed since the Roy Halladay era.
The Price situation resembles the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 when they traded for then-free agent C.C. Sabathia. They worked Sabathia to the bone and it paid off as he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts and the Brew Crew made the playoffs as a wild card team.
Price averages 215 strikeouts a season, has a career ERA of 3.11, a 1.13 WHIP and won the American League Cy Young Award in 2012.
The Jays were locked, loaded and intimidating teams now.
One week after the deadline, the Jays were tested with their toughest task, a three-game set with the Yanks on the road.
This was a perfect opportunity for the Jays to fray and shy away from the spotlight.
They went into the Bronx and stepped on the Yanks throat and kicked their head in with a sweep and blanked them in the last two games. No team has shutout the Bronx Bombers in consecutive games in 16 years.
The Jays were en fuego and they were doing it with defence and pitching.
They are holding teams to almost two fewer runs on this winning streak compared to their run in June.
It starts with everybody contributing in the rotation.
Drew Hutchinson turned in his best outing of the year against the Oakland A’s, while R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada have been delightful.
I have to give it up to my least favourite Blue Jay of all time; Dickey is heating up.
Dickey is cruising; he is 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA and 33 strikeouts in his last seven games.
I feels like I am waterboarding myself when admit it, but the knuckler is laughing at hitters right now.
This is the best he has thrown in a Jays uniform. That only took two and a half years.
And it’s not even a contract year for Dickey, so I can’t even hold that against him. I have to give the man props.
The Jays need Dickey to stay in his lane in order to make a serious run in the playoffs.
The timing of the streak also plays a HUGE factor in its significance. Wins in May and June don’t carry the same weight as they do in August and September.
The Jays have won 14 out of their last 15 games and erased a 7.5 Yankee lead in division in what feels like an hour.
For the past three years, the Jays could always swing it. Management shoved all their chips into the middle of the table, risked it to get the biscuit, and gave this team a pitching staff with cojones.
All that being said, there still are 46 games remaining, and 10 with the Evil Empire.
IF the Jays stay healthy, I don’t see how it’s possible for the Yankees to keep pace or even surpass the juggernaut Jays.
This is might be the most complete Jays roster in decades.
Similar to what I discussed during their first streak – how their offence wasn’t sustainable – I believe the same now about their pitching staff.
On paper, their staff is not the best in the bigs. They are currently on a higher level and it’s awesome to watch.
When gravity sets in and they comeback to Earth, I believe the Jays are balanced and equipped enough to stay afloat in the pennant race.
Lately, I have trouble falling asleep following each win because the excitement runs rampant in my veins knowing that this might finally be the year the Jays make the playoffs.