Six games. All six on the road. Facing the two best teams in all of baseball. In the heat of a pennant race.
If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that that was how Week 22 (August 30 – September 5) was going to go shape up for the Blue Jays, I would have predicted six straight losses. So the fact that Toronto was able to go into Tampa Bay and New York and win two out of six really isn’t all that bad.
This team has come a long way this season – they are getting to the point where they expect to win.
Here are three things from week 22:
1. Player of the Month
The Bautista Appreciation Society just got bigger. Toronto’s slugger was named the American League Player of the Month for August during week 22, making it back-to-back months that J-Bau has won the award. He joins John Olerud (who won it twice in 1993) as the only Blue Jay to ever win two Player of the Month awards in a single season.
It really was an explosive August for Bautista. In 28 games he hit for a .299 average, .431 OBP, and a 1.173 OPS. He banged 12 HR, 24 RBI, scored 23 runs, and even stole two bases. The hitting rampage raised his season batting average from a brutal .228 on June 30th, to a much more respectable .268 at the end of August.
While it seems unlikely that Bautista will be in the running for the AL MVP award, he does have one more milestone in his sights – George Bell’s team record of 47 HR.
2. Welcome Back Aaron
It has been a season to forget for Aaron Hill. A hamstring injury in April, a season-long struggle at the plate, and a sudden case of the fielding yips have left the second baseman a shadow of his 2009 self.
But give credit where credit is due. Hill easily could have shut things down for the season, given up, and sulked his way to the winter. But if the past week is any indication, he is not d0ing that, instead putting his focus on finishing strong. Last week Hill hit .333 with a 1.280 OPS, 3 HR, and 7 RBI.
His batting average is not going to be anywhere near what we thought it would, but the power numbers are still there. He now has 22 on the season (Note: 23 after yesterday), good enough for fourth among second baseman in MLB.
3. The Quest for .500
In the pre-season, baseball “experts” predicted anywhere in between 60-65 wins for Toronto. Many had them finishing dead last in the AL East, even behind the Baltimore Orioles.
But here we are in early September, and after Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Yankees the Blue Jays have 70 wins. Their 70-66 record has them four games above the break-even point. Considering it was supposed to be a rebuilding / transitional year (no Halladay, Cito’s last year, uncertainty at third and at closer), a plus .500 finish would be an oustanding accomplishment.
With series still to play against Texas, Tampa Bay, Boston, New York, and Minnesota, it won’t be easy. But all Toronto needs is 12 more wins to ensure a winning season, maybe the most unexpected winning season in franchise history.