Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The hottest team in Major League Baseball the past couple of weeks is the Toronto Blue Jays. In some ways, that’s not a surprise because they were the consensus pick to survive the tough AL East before the season began after making some dramatic off-season moves.
On the other hand, it was a SHOCKER because the 2013 picture had gotten so bleak just before the hot run.
*R.A. Dickey had been a huge disappointment on the mound, as American Leagues didn’t seem fazed at all by his hard knuckler. He was going to anchor a division winning staff. Instead he was just an anvil.
*Injuries had created the need for desperation options in the starting rotation…meaning longshots to succeed were being asked to come in and put out a fire.
*The immediate schedule was going to be brutal. Toronto entered a four-game series at Texas with a 28-36 record…and that was going to be followed by three games with NL West leader Colorado…then three more with resurgent Baltimore. If the season wasn’t already in the dumpster…it was on the verge of being tossed in hard before the lid slammed shut.
Then a funny thing happened in Texas. Toronto won ALL FOUR games, despite having to start long reliever Esmil Rogers in one game…and recent acquisition Chien-Ming Wang in another. To say they pulled Wang off the scrap heap is an understatement. Nobody thought he had any starts left in him…certainly not a good start in the hitter’s paradise of Arlington! Toronto didn’t just win all four games, they won scoreboard by an incredible 24-4 margin.
Toronto maintained that momentum with an impressive sweep of Colorado, winning scoreboard 15-5, which means a 39-9 rout of the Rangers and Rockies. And, you know how things went with the Orioles this past weekend.
The question now is…can Toronto keep this going? It’s one thing to make a run back to the .500 mark after being a dozen games below. That’s only half the mountain. The best teams in baseball right now are a dozen games ABOVE the .500 mark. Toronto still has a lot of work to do…and some imposing hurdles are ahead.
*Toronto must head to Tampa Bay Monday night for a three-game set against the dangerous Rays.
*Toronto gets no rest break at all, with a four-game series in Boston starting Thursday. That’s SEVEN games ON THE ROAD this week against top notch competition. Their hard schedule just got harder!
*Guess what. Those two series are followed by four home games against Detroit. ARE YOU KIDDING?!
*It’s extremely unlikely that Rogers and Wang will continue to throw this impressively. They may settle in as innings munchers, which is a best case scenario. They may turn back into pumpkins…which means the rotation blows up again and needs another fix. And as you just saw…that implosion would be happening against very strong opposing offenses.
JIM HURLEY is watching this situation very closely. If Toronto stays hot…then they’ll offer value. If the offense stays hot but the pitching falls back to earth…then OVERS will offer great value. If the pixie dust wears off, then Toronto may be positioned for a long losing streak given the caliber of opposition that’s ahead over the next week and a half. Making the right read with the Rays could lead to a half a dozen winners in very short order.
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Back with you in the NOTEBOOK Tuesday for what will likely be notes on that Rangers/Yankees series in the Bronx. Look for baseball tips daily on these pages, then link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!