What. A. Turnaround.
The crazy 2017 season continued its crazy ways this afternoon as the Jays, featuring Chris Coghlan, Ryan Goins, and Luke Maile at the bottom of the lineup and Mike Bolsinger on the mound, completed a three game sweep of the Reds to creep to within a single game of .500.
That’s right. This team that started 1-9 overall, 2-8 at home, and at one point was 6-17 – good for dead last in baseball – is now 26-27. This team that at one stretch was missing Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales (for a few games), J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, and Francisco Liriano, is now only 6 games behind the Yankees for top spot in the AL East. This team that on top of all the injuries saw Devon Travis and Jose Bautista batting under .150, Roberto Osuna blowing every save chance he could find, and Grilli / Howell / Leone and co. giving away runs like candy on Halloween is now suddenly only 2.5 games back of a Wild Card slot.
On the morning of April 27th, with the Jays sitting with a record of 6-14 and looking rather hopeless, I wrote that it was important for the team to reach the .500 mark by game 62. That would leave them with a nice round 100 games remaining to make their move towards October. At the time of that post, Toronto needed to go 25-17 in the next 42 games to reach the .500 mark. Did I really believe they could do it? I’d like to say yes. But let’s be honest. They still had to go to New York to face the red hot Yankees. There was still a home and home series with Tampa, a visit to Baltimore, and series against two 2016 playoff teams in Cleveland and Texas. Then, immediately after writing that article Toronto lost three straight games (including an embarrassing doubleheader sweep in St. Louis) to fall to 6-17.
The season was horrid. And getting worse.
But what has transpired since then has been simply magical. Bautista and Travis have started hitting. Players have started returning to health. Stroman turned into a slugger and an ace. Estrada is suddenly a strikeout artist. Osuna regained his 2015/16 form. And the most unlikely players have taken turns as hero’s. Goins, Carrera, and Barney of all people took turns carrying the offense. Joe Biagini of all people stabilized the rotation. Joe Smith, Ryan Tepera, and Danny Barnes of all people suddenly morphed into Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, transforming Toronto’s ‘pen into a fortress.
Even better, during Toronto’s 18-10 month of May, the rest of the AL East has stayed stagnant. Tampa, New York, and Boston are each 3 games over .500, and Baltimore has lost significant ground at 11-16. The division is essentially up for grabs.
The Jays have now collected 20 of the 25 wins required to reach .500 by game 62. A 5-4 record in the next 9 games is all it will take. With a four game set at home with the Yankees, and then a west coast trip to Oakland and Seattle upcoming, it definitely won’t be easy.
But I like our chances.