With a slate of seven home games, three against the second last place Minnesota Twins and four against a Tigers squad that had lost five of six coming in, there was a great chance for the Jays to resurrect a winning streak last week.
After getting thumped in Tampa and Boston and slipping back below .500, Toronto needed to rebound. With the number of games remaining starting to slowly dwindle, they couldn’t afford to slip up and fall any further behind the rest of the AL East.
Unfortunately, the bad habits from April and May resurfaced and the team dropped 4 of 7 to fall back to 10 games behind the Red Sox. There is still a chance that the Jays could once again catch fire and narrow the gap, but there is almost nothing about the team that gives fans confidence that they will.
Here are three things from week 14:
Week 14: July 1 – July 7
Record: 3 – 4
1. Three All-Stars (Maybe Four!)
Although 2013 has not been a great year for the team, it HAS been a great year for several individuals on the team. The Toronto Blue Jays will officially be sending three players to the All-Star game in New York next week, with the chance for a fourth.
Jose Bautista will start for the third straight year, voted in through fan balloting yet again. Bautista is having another sensational season for the Jays, currently sitting 7th in the AL in HR with 20, 15th in RBI with 52, 10th in OPS at .877, and 11th in WAR at 3.4. He will joined by Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Cecil, each making his first All-Star appearance. Edwin was voted in by his peers, while Cecil was chosen by AL manager Jim Leyland.
After breaking out in 2012, EE is once again tearing up AL pitching, with 23 HR (T-3rd), 68 RBI (3rd), and an .889 OPS (9th). But by far the biggest and most pleasant surprise has been Cecil. There was a very real possibility that he wouldn’t even make the team out of Spring Training, but he survived and has turned into one of the American League’s most dominant relievers. His numbers are incredible across
the board. For all AL relievers with a minimum of 40 IP, Cecil ranks 2nd in ERA (1.81), 2nd in WHIP (0.87), 3rd in strikeouts (52), 2nd in K/9 (10.48), and 1st in opponents OPS (.492).
With the Final Vote process, there is a chance that another Blue Jay reliever could be joining Cecil. Steve Delabar has been just as dominant as Cecil this season, actually posting a better ERA (1.58) and better strikeout numbers (57, 12.83K/9). His 57 Ks lead all AL relievers.
This marks the most players Toronto has sent to the All-Star game since they sent three in 2010 – a silver lining in an otherwise disappointing season.
2. Maicer Heating Up
It’s no secret that second base has been a bit of a black hole for the Jays this year. Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis have been inconsistent and spotty at best, and even lost some playing time to Munenori Kawasaki and Mark DeRosa. The latest rumour has Brett Lawrie potentially moving over upon his return, and even the possibility of acquiring veteran Chase Utley.
But maybe things are finally looking up, because for the first time all season, Maicer Izturis is looking like a major league hitter. In seven games last week, Izturis went 9 for 24, good for a .375 average and .782 OPS, and added 2 R, 4 RBI, and 2 walks. His hot streak extends further back, however, beginning just when the team started the 11-game winning streak. In the last 25 games Izturis has posted a .315 average, .778 OPS, 2 HR, 16 RBI, and scored 14 runs. He has raised his season batting average from .202 to .243 and his season OPS from .533 to .622 in the process.
The numbers pale in comparison to other 2B around the league, and an upgrade would still benefit the team, but you have to give credit where it’s due. Izturis is turning it around. Let’s hope the starting pitchers follow suit.
3. Fill-In Magic
What is it with the Jays and fill-in starting pitchers? First J.A. Happ fills-in as the #5 starter for Ricky Romero and becomes Toronto’s most consistent starter until he went down. Then along comes Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz, and Chien-Ming Wang, all putting up some pretty impressive numbers in their first few starts.
The trend kept going this past week with the starting debut of Todd Redmond. The right-hander put up a great showing against the Twins (5 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) to earn his first career win and give the Jays a much needed solid start.
It’s still unknown how long Redmond will be a member of the rotation, but let’s hope that if he is here for a while that he has some staying power. While Rogers has hung on and maintained a solid level of success, both Ortiz and Wang flamed out spectacularly (as did Romero, Sean Nolin, and Aaron Laffey before them). I’m not sure Toronto’s pitching depth could sustain any more casualties.