TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays are in the thick of a playoff race for the first time in years. There have been plenty of surprises on the team this season. Here is a look at five:
ANTHOPOULOS MAKES HIS MOVE
It was a trade deadline performance that became the talk of baseball. It will take years to determine the winners and losers of the many trades that general manager Alex Anthopoulos completed during a wild week in late July. It won’t matter much to Blue Jays fans if they have a parade this fall. David Price and Troy Tulowitzki were two of the big-name acquisitions.
Big things were expected from third baseman Josh Donaldson after an off-season trade with Oakland that saw Canadian Brett Lawrie and prospects head to the Athletics. Donaldson has come as advertised. He’s in consideration for the American League most valuable player award, has flirted with a .300 average and could clear the 40-homer and 110-RBI marks this season.
In other words, don’t worry about the ninth inning. Roberto Osuna has settled into the closer’s role nicely since moving into the spot in late June. The 20-year-old Mexican fireballer has pitched like a veteran and provided some much-needed stability late in games. With Aaron Sanchez as the setup man in the eighth, Toronto’s starters can feel good knowing the game is in good – albeit young – hands.
Marco Estrada showed his form by taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a mid-June start against Baltimore. What did he do for an encore? He took a perfect game into the eighth inning of his next start against Tampa Bay. Estrada has been a steady presence in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation and has already cleared the 10-win mark for the first time in his big-league career.
PILLAR OF STRENGTH
It seemed like Kevin Pillar was on a regular shuttle last season between Toronto and triple-A Buffalo. He has been given a chance to be an everyday player this year and is making the most of it. Pillar’s offensive numbers have been average but he has really made his mark with stellar defence. His range has improved significantly and his all-world catch to rob Tim Beckham of a home run last April will be infinitely looped on baseball highlight packages.