TORONTO — Standing behind the batting cage Monday evening, hitting coach Guillermo Martinez can only crack a smile when asked about the run his Toronto Blue Jays offence is on these days.
Averaging 7.5 runs per game over the past 16 games, the scorching bats have led the Jays to a 14-2 record during that span and pushed them to the top of the American League wild-card race.
Prior to that, the offence had endured its worst collective slump of the year, and many thought it had killed the Jays’ postseason hopes.
“We just kept our routines the same and literally not pressing the panic button,” Martinez said. “Baseball is up and down. I think it was just more noticeable because we’re in a playoff run.”
Following a loss in Detroit on Aug. 27, with the bats as cold as they’d been all year and the club treading water at five games over .500, FanGraphs pegged the Jays’ postseason chances at just 4.7 per cent.
Heading into Monday’s three-game series against the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays, they’re now being given a 66 per cent chance to be playing October baseball for the second straight year.
“I think they’re just trying to prove to a lot of people that they’re a very good team,” Martinez said. “I know that they’re young, but they’re ready to play playoff baseball.”
While the AL East pennant is still a pipe dream at this point, the six games the Jays have remaining against the Rays will provide a litmus test and a potential psychological boost if they can play well against a team that has been a thorn in their side for years.
If the Rays claim the best record in the American League — as they’re on pace to do — they’ll also be waiting for the winner of the wild-card game, meaning any potential postseason road for the Jays will have to go through Tampa.
THINGS I PROBABLY TWEETED
Social media had some fun with the fact the Jays outscored 14 NFL teams Sunday in their 22-7 drubbing of the hapless Baltimore Orioles … Sunday’s win, which finished off a 7-1 road trip, left the Jays 17 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2016 campaign when they were 86-69 with a few days left to go in that postseason-bound season … Sitting at 85 innings on the year heading into Monday’s start, manager Charlie Montoyo confirmed there is no innings counter or limit on 23-year-old Alek Manoah, who came into the year with just 17 professional innings under his belt … Catcher Gabriel Moreno, the top prospect in the organization, finally returned from a fractured thumb he suffered in June over the weekend, playing in a pair of Florida Complex League games … Quietly, Teoscar Hernandez leads all of baseball with 54 RBI since the all-star break.
STAT DIG: 44 homers
In just his first true full season in the big leagues, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already equalled his dad’s best-ever season in the home run department.
The elder Guerrero swatted 40-plus bombs twice in his career, maxing out with 44 with the Montreal Expos in 2000.
After hitting his 44th on Sunday at Camden Yards, Junior has lots of time to set a new family record and could push 50 if he stays as hot as he’s been in September.
Vladdy’s hot streak has breathed new life into his triple crown chase, as well, with the 22-year-old leading the American League in batting average, sitting tied for the homer lead, and trailing only Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu in RBI.
In the history of baseball, the triple crown has only been claimed on 12 occasions.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I’ve never seen anything like that, these last three days. I’ve been in the game for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like that, back-to-back, to score that many runs. When you do what we did yesterday, you usually show up today and score four or five. But to score 22? That’s impressive.”
—Charlie Montoyo on his team’s hot bats in Baltimore
THE CALL-UP LIST
Five players closest to a promotion to the big leagues when a need arises:
1—INF/OF Cavan Biggio, Triple-A rehab: Desperately trying to make it back in order to contribute to a postseason push, Biggio (left elbow) made it into a pair of rehab games over the weekend with the Bisons, collecting one hit in six trips to the plate.
2—RHP Thomas Hatch, Triple-A: After being needed for four frames Saturday in Baltimore, Hatch was shuttled back to Buffalo where he’ll continue to work as a starter.
3—RHP Anthony Castro, Triple-A: Now recovered from an elbow injury, Castro reappeared in the majors for the first time in two months Saturday, before being optioned back to Buffalo.
4—LHP Tayler Saucedo, Triple-A: The lefty will continue to shuttle back and forth from Buffalo when fresh arms are needed. Add Trent Thornton, Bryan Baker and Kirby Snead to this list, too.
5—3B/SS Kevin Smith, Triple-A: His first big-league cameo was a learning lesson with a .094 average. If Biggio and Santiago Espinal (hip) return to health, Smith will bide his time at Triple-A.