Every Monday during the 2015 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.
This is what happened in week 12.
Week 12: June 22 – June 28
Record: 4 – 2
Season-to-date: 41 – 36
AL East: 4th, 1 GB of Baltimore/Tampa Bay
Wild Card: 0.5 GB of 2nd Wild Card (New York)
1. Huge Character Week
The Blue Jays have been red hot lately, with their 11-game winning streak producing some incredibly impressive baseball. But for me, Toronto’s performance last week against Tampa Bay and Texas was even more impressive than their play during the win streak. Despite losing two games, the Jays proved that they are a legitimate contender. First, they won both series against good baseball teams, one a first place club and the other above .500. Second, they won a series in Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, a place that has historically given Toronto fits. Third, and most importantly, they won games without hitting. Much has been made about the juggernaut offense, and for good reason, but much has also been made about the Blue Jays inability to win close games and games when that offense doesn’t produce. Coming into the week, the Jays were 3-28 when scoring four or fewer runs, leading critics to say that they wouldn’t be able to win in the playoffs if they were to make it that far. Well, the team responded with a 1-0 12-inning win on Wednesday and a gutty 3-2 win yesterday. Obviously two wins won’t silence those critics (especially considering they lost two other games last week when scoring < 5 runs), but it is a start. With the improvement in the rotation and the emergence of Osuna at the back end of the bullpen, we might start seeing Toronto win more of those types of games.
2. Nearly Perfect
On June 19th, Marco Estrada completely dominated the Orioles in Toronto, taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning. It was the best start of his career, and Jays fans were hoping for something even half as good in his next start. Well, we were treated to something even better. On Wednesday afternoon in Tampa, Estrada was perfect through seven innings, retiring the 22 batters he faced. He was aided by an absolutely terrific catch by Josh Donaldson, but mainly did it all himself. After losing the perfecto on a weakly hit infield single to Logan Forsythe, Estrada retired four more batters to the finish the game with 8.2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, and 10 K. By Game Score (a Bill James metric) Estrada’s start earned a score of 90 making it the sixth best start of the season in all of baseball. In his past two starts Marco has only surrendered 3 hits and 4 walks in 15.2 IP while striking out 16, and since being placed in the starting rotation he has a 3.90 ERA in 10 starts. Five of his past six starts have been Quality Starts. Out of nowhere, Marco Estrada is giving the Jays ace-like pitching at a time when they need it the most.
3. Our New Saviour?
The last time the Blue Jays had a truly dominant closer was probably way back in 2006, when B.J. Ryan posted 38 saves with a 1.37 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9. Jeremy Accardo, Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, and Casey Janssen put up some solid years afterwards, but none of them possessed the flame-throwing, hit-and-miss stuff that made you fully confident that they could nail down a save in a one run game. I’m hesitant to call Roberto Osuna the Jays next real-deal closer (especially seeing what happened to Miguel Castro a few short months ago), but through two appearances as the team’s closer Osuna is instilling the kind of confidence in fans not seen in these parts since the days of Ryan, Ward, and Henke. On Monday he was called upon for a two inning save, and responded by striking out five of the six hitters he faced. Then yesterday he was brought in with two runners on base in a one-run game in the 8th, and responded by striking out Shin-Soo Choo before retiring the Rangers in the 9th. Two save opportunities, two saves. With a 2.02 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 42 K in 35.2 IP, Osuna is making a case to stick around as closer for a lot longer.
Player of the Week
Marco Estrada, SP
What a performance on Wednesday: 8.2 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 10 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.23 WHIP
Down on the Farm
A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing
AAA – Buffalo: 37 – 39, 4th place
AA – New Hampshire: 35 – 38, 5th place
A+ – Dunedin: First Half (complete): 32 – 38, 5th place; Second Half: 1-3, 6th place
A – Lansing: First Half (complete): 42 – 28 , 1st place; Second Half: 2-2, T-2nd place
A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 6-5, T-2nd place
The Look Ahead
The Red Sox hit Toronto for Canada Day, followed by a visit to long-time rivals Detroit.
June 29 – July 2 vs Boston
July 3-5 at Detroit