Blue Jays ended their 22-year playoff drought

(Courtesy of Toronto Star)

(Courtesy of Toronto Star)

TORONTO- For the first time since 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays gave their fans something they’ve been waiting for: the Blue Jays clinched the playoffs after a 3-game series sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays, ending their 22-year playoff drought. This will be the Blue Jays’ first playoff appearance since Joe Carter hit a 3-run walk-off home run allowing the team to the 1993 World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies.

For many Blue Jays fans, it’s hard to believe that the Blue Jays are in the postseason. Over the 3-game series versus the Rays, the fans at the Rogers Centre were notably more electrifying as 47,000 people heard the news that the Blue Jays secured a wildcard birth. Fans were waving their rally towels and the players celebrated with champagne and beer facials.

Their incredible journey starting when Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos made one of the biggest splashes in free agency in franchise history, which included signing Russell Martin to a five-year deal worth $82 million. The Canadian back stopper returned to his native country and brought his excellent pitch framing, working with the young pitching staff, which ultimately increased the Jays’ ability to shut down the running game and clutch hitting.

Following the Martin signing, Anthopoulos pulled off a surprising trade that change the franchise dramatically. All Star third baseman Josh Donaldson was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman. This move was one of the more shocking trades during the offseason since Athletics’ GM Billy Beane mentioned that Donaldson wasn’t available during that time. But Anthopoulos’ persistence convinced Beane to make such a deal and it may have turned out to be one of his best trades during his tenure.

The first half of the season didn’t look promising for the Jays when they heard the news that their young right-hander Marcus Stroman went down with a torn ACL and Michael Saunders was sidelined with a meniscus tear in his left knee. They started off the season off slow with mediocre pitching, sluggish starts from Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and relying on young talent with six rookies on the opening day roster.

Before July 27, the Blue Jays went 50-50 and were seven games behind the New York Yankees. Prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, Anthopoulos realized that enough was enough and was one of the most active executives at the deadline. Anthopoulos pulled off another blockbuster by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins for Jose Reyes, Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco. Although often injury prone, Tulowitzki provides gold glove defense at shortstop and another power bat in their potent lineup.

During the first half, pitching was a huge concern. Anthopoulos addressed that when he acquired David Price from the Detroit Tigers for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. Price is the ace that the Blue Jays needed since the removal of Roy Halladay and his presence was felt in the rotation and in the clubhouse. Since becoming a member of the Blue Jays, Price went 9-1 and pitched 74.1 innings with a 2.30 ERA and 87 strikeouts. Price said himself that playing at the Rogers Centre is by far the best atmosphere he’s ever played in.

Price and Tulowitzki were the big names, but Anthopoulos also acquired some upgrades in left field and the bullpen with speedy Ben Revere and hard throwing righty Mark Lowe. All of the new additions helped the Blue Jays become one of the hottest teams during the second half of the season. They continue to score runs, outpitched their opponents and improve their overall defense. Since August 1, the Blue Jays went 37-14, which is the best record during that span.

Even with the new additions, the Blue Jays are getting contributions from their core players. R.A. Dickey pitched a lot better during the second half. Bautista and Encarnacion found their groove at the plate. Roberto Osuna has been lights out since becoming the Blue Jays closer. Donaldson made an major impact during his  first season with the Blue Jays. The all star third baseman is having a career year with 41 home runs and 121 RBI.  Donaldson is a legitimate candidate for AL MVP honours for his impact with his bat and glove. The Blue Jays are the only team in the majors to have three players hit more than 35 home runs and 100 RBI.

Now that the Blue Jays clinched the playoffs, they are not done just yet. Their magic number to clinch the AL East Division is four and they are currently tied with the Kansas City Royals for the best record in the American League. Though the Blue Jays would have home field advantage since they have a better series versus the Royals 4-3, the AL East division is still up for grabs with the Yankees right behind them. But more importantly, the Blue Jays are looking to finish the season with the best record in the American League.

For the Blue Jays securing a playoff spot, the real work is about to begin as they will be looking to bring the World Series Championship back to Toronto.

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How should the Blue Jays shape their starting rotation for the playoffs?

(Courtesy of THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

(Courtesy of THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

TORONTO- The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are on pace to clinch their first playoff appearance since 1993. Canada’s only MLB ball club went 34-14 since the All Star break thanks to the midseason acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Even though Price is a major boast in the rotation, the rest of the pitching staff is a bit of concern especially in the playoffs.

So far the Blue Jays starting rotation looks like this:

DAVID PRICE

Price himself is a huge upgrade in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation. Since being acquired by the Detroit Tigers, Price pitched 50.1 innings with a 2.15 ERA and 58 strikeouts. He’s been the ace of the Blue Jays’ staff since Roy Halladay and continues to shut down opposing hitters while going deep into games. Price will definitely start for the AL Wild Card game or ALDS opener.

MARCO ESTRADA

Marco Estrada is enjoying a breakout season and has been the club’s most reliable starter. He has a 3.18 ERA with 111 strikeouts over 147.1 innings. Estrada’s emergence has been huge for the Blue Jays’ pitching staff, and he will be relied upon in the pennant race. The knock on Estrada is that he’s known to give up a lot of home runs during his career. Despite being a flyball pitcher, Estrada is still a dependable arm for in the rotation or bullpen.

R.A. DICKEY

Dickey has pitched better as of late, with a 2.68 ERA since the All Star break. The Blue Jays won 10 of his 11 starts in the 2nd half. However, the knuckleball is a unpredictable pitch and Dickey allowed 23 dingers this season. The grip of the knuckleball will be key for Dickey’s success in the postseason, especially pitching in cold weathers with less humidity.

MARK BUEHRLE

Buehrle is having another solid season for the Blue Jays with a 3.72 ERA in 174.1 innings. However, the 36-year old has been roughed up lately and he is expected to miss his next start this Saturday against the New York Yankees. The soft-tossing southpaw is also been dealing with a minor soreness in his left shoulder and received cortisone shot. His age and health may be a bit of a concern for the Blue Jays, but he’s still capable pitcher when healthy.

DREW HUTCHISON

It’s been a rough season for  Hutchinson, who posted a 5.33 ERA in over 147 innings. The 25-year old righty has been outstanding at home with a 2.91 ERA, but struggles on the road with a 9.44 ERA. Still, the Blue Jays will need Hutchison to perform better for the remainder of the season. He is probably going to be used out of the bullpen as a long-inning reliever.

MARCUS STROMAN

Stroman will make his season debut this Saturday against the Yankees. This will be his first start since September 26, 2014 after making a remarkable recovery from a torn ACL. The 24-year old was roughed out from his final rehab start, giving up four runs, eight hits and four walks over three innings. If Stroman can repeat his number like he did in 2014, the Blue Jays will be in good shape in their rotation. But that’s a big “if.”

Overall, Price is probably the only lock to start in the postseason for the Blue Jays. Usually teams will use their three best starters when the games matter. The next 23 games of the regular season will indicate how the Blue Jays will shape up the rest of pitching staff. Pitching will be the key factor for their playoff success.

Josh Donaldson is clearly the front runner for AL MVP

(Courtesy ofDan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

(Courtesy ofDan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

TORONTO- The American League’s Most Valuable Player is awarded for not being the best player in the league. It’s for the recognition of a player making an immediate impact and demonstrates hustle, heart and sportsmanship. Josh Donaldson proves to be a worthy candidate to win such an accomplishment.

There’s lots more to like about Donaldson’s game other than his bat and glove. Sure everyone admire his .304 batting average, 36 homers, 110 RBIs and a .961 OPS. But every time that Donaldson steps up to the plate and hears the “MVP” chants, he would show a little bit of something extra to help his team win. He put on a display during the 5-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians last Wednesday.

When the 29-year old all star was on third base during the second inning, Troy Tulowitzki hit a pop-up to shallow right field, which was caught by Jason Kipnis. Then Donaldson tagged the base, ran straight toward home plate and made an terrific slide to avoid the tag from Yan Gomes to score a run. It is rare to see a base runner trying to score from a pop-up by a second baseman.

Later on, Donaldson used his same athleticism and aggression to stretch a single into a double in the 5th inning. Taking full advantage of Michael Brantley’s misplay in left field. Donaldson finished the game 3-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a pair of runs scored.

Defensively, Donaldson has been making great defensive plays all season long with his excellent range and instinct. His ability to impact on both offense and defense is a huge reason why he leading the American League with the most wins above replacement at 7.4. Only Bryce Harper (7.9) has more in the majors.

Donaldson is probably likely to go head-to-head with Mike Trout for the AL MVP race. With 29 games remaining, the Blue Jays’ third baseman is a leading contender. Though a lot can change from now to the regular season ended.

Donaldson is a huge reason why the Blue Jays are on pace to clinch the playoffs for the first time since 1993. But he proves to be more than a slugger. His competitiveness and baseball IQ’s is what the Blue Jays needed. That’s why he is considered to be one of the top players in the majors.

Ryan Goins: the Blue Jays’ Unlikely Hero

(Courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

(Courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

TORONTO- Earlier this season, Josh Donaldson was known to be a clutch hitter for the Toronto Blue Jays with three walkoff hits. Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Colabello each had a walkoff hit earlier this season. Last Tuesday, the Blue Jays pulled off their 6th walkoff victory by an unlikely hero. Ryan Goins, who was known more for his glove than his bat, blast a walk-off 2-run homerun to give the Blue Jays a 5-3 victory against the Cleveland Indians. They also maintain their 1.5 game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East Division.

People are used to see the 27-year old middle infielder making highlight reel defensive plays like the sliding catch he made in foul territory on Tuesday. Hitting hasn’t exactly been the forte of a player who batted .188 with a .479 OPS last season.

Considering Goins’ history of struggling at the plate, the Blue Jays didn’t expect any offensive production from him when Devon Travis was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury for the second time this season. Instead, Goins has turn into a hitting machine. Since August 1, Goins has a .301 batting average with 3 home runs, 17 walks and 16 strikeouts. Not to mention that he is currently on an 11-game hitting streak.

With the help from hitting coach Brook Jacoby, made some adjustment at the plate to hit for more contact and improve his on-base discipline. Shorting his swing to create more bat speed and hitting for hard contact. In result, he crushed a hanging slider that was in the middle of the plate from Bryan Shaw in the 10th inning and won the ball game for his team. He improved his seaon numbers with a .246 batting average with 5 home runs and a .676 OPS.

Goins’ special moment was made possible when Roberto Osuna blew his first save since taking over as closer. Also Edwin Encarnacion’ snapped his 26-game hitting streak. 41,356 fans roared at Rogers Centre when Goins smashed the game-winning dinger and became the unlikely hero. Thanks to Goins’ surprising power the Blue Jays scored when it mattered most.

There no doubt that Goins has been the most improve Blue Jay the season. He has prove to be a solid major league player who can step up when needed.

Blue Jays have a historical month in August

 (Courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

(Courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

TORONTO- The Toronto Blue Jays may have ended August on a losing note, but they have one of the most historical month during the regular season. The hottest team in baseball finished with a 21-6 record, which equates to a .778 winning percentage. They were winning games since acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price prior to the trade deadline and hurled themselves into first place in the American League East over the New York Yankees.

The Blue Jays were one win away to tie the franchise record with the most wins in a month. That record still belongs to the 1998 team that went 22-7, but the latest streak is ranked second alongside with May 2014 (21-9), May 2003 (21-8) and September/October 1992 (21-9).

Toronto has been winning ballgames in a wide variety of ways. They outslugged, outpitched and out-defended their opponents.

Offensively, the Blue Jays led the Majors in August with 170 runs, while also ranking first in home runs (49), on-base percentage (.349) and OPS (.831). Edwin Encarnacion found his groove in August hitting .402 (33-82) with 11 home runs, 35 RBI and an impressive 1.385 OPS. He is also currently on a 26-game hitting streak, which is the longest active hitting streak this season.

Josh Donaldson continues to make a name for himself for AL MVP. The All-star third baseman hit .324 with 11 home runs, 35 RBI and a 1.132 OPS. Every time Donaldson steps to the plate at Rogers Centre, he hears fans chanting “MVP.” When Donaldson hit a go ahead 2-run triple against the Indians last Monday, the fans exploded with cheers and gave him the loudest ovation with 46,643 in the stadium.

Both Donaldson and Encarnacion became the first duo to hit 11 home runs and 35 RBI since the 1950 Boston Red Sox’s Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Most of the attention for the Blue Jays has been their offence, but their pitching has been dominant during that span. Toronto’s pitching staff ranked third in the Major Leagues with a 2.83 ERA in August. Price’s presence made a immediate impact for the Blue Jays rotation, pitching in 43.1 innings with a 2.28 ERA and striking out 50 batters. The bullpen were able to close out the majority of games led by Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez.

Finally, their defense for the Blue Jays has been the most improve aspect with the addition of Tulowitzki and Ben Revere. Tulowitzki proved to be a significant upgrade over Jose Reyes at shortstop. Revere display his speed and range to cover the left side of the outfield. They proved to be a much better defensive team and showing no weaknesses on the field.

It seems that the Blue Jays has aspirations for postseason success. When Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos came through these deals over the past calendar year, he ensemble a team bound for greatness. The fans found their enthusiasm and optimism about their new look ball club. The players inside the clubhouse enjoy their success.

Now entering the month of September, the Blue Jays are hoping to carry this momentum and end their 22-year playoff drought. Even if the team play .500 this month, they are still on pace to win 90 games. However they got a tough task when they have to face their division rivals in 8 of their next 9 series. It is up to the players to continue winnings game. Once they clinched the playoffs, it will be a special and unforgettable moment for not only the city of Toronto, but for the entire country of Canada to witness.