After a disappointing below .500 2013 season for the Jays, it’s hard to look back and take any positives from it. But way back in June there was that 11-game win streak that tied franchise records.
Maybe it seems pointless to look back at it now, but maybe it can also shed some light on what worked for the Jays last season. Maybe it’s something they can hope to replicate next season. In any case, let’s break down what exactly happened in those 11 games.
June 11, 2013
The Jays played again Tuesday in Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, following a 6-10 loss to the White Sox from the day before, putting them nine games below .500. Chien-Ming Wang—replacing injured Brandon Morrow in the rotation—pitched in his Blue Jays debut. He pitched seven innings, allowing five earned runs, with four crucial runs given up in the fourth inning. Still, he managed to keep the Jays in the game.
In the top of the ninth, the Jays were down to their final strike with effective White Sox closer Addison Reed on the mound, and Jose Bautista at the plate. The crowd took to their feet to cheer the delivery. Then Reed hung a slider up over the plate. As Bautista’s bat cracked against the ball, you could simultaneously hear a collective sigh from the Chicago fans.
In the 10th, Rajai Davis led off, singled, and made use of his speed by stealing second. Adam Lind moved him to third on a fly ball. Then Davis scored on a wild pitch by Ramon Troncoso. Izturis later added an insurance run when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers dropped the ball on what should have been an easy out at home.
It was by no means a dominant way to start the streak. The White Sox made mistakes; the Jays capitalized.
Jays win 7-5.
June 13, 2013
The final game of the series against the White Sox was postponed due to severe weather, so the Jays headed to Texas to play Thursday. They had a day to rest and enjoy the extra innings victory. They even may have had time to reminisce about the 18-inning victory they had against the Rangers less than a week ago. Despite their record, there was a lot for the Jays to be confident about heading into Thursday’s game.
Texas headed into the series with white-hot Darvish pitching, but ice cold bats.
Darvish faced Esmil Rogers. Rogers pitched seven strong innings, using his sinker effectively and getting ground-ball outs. He gave up a solo shot to Nelson Cruz in the second inning when he went away from his sinker, instead throwing a high-fastball.
Fortunately, the Jays had the better bullpen. In the eighth Bonifacio reached on an error and eventually was moved to third. Bautista walked. Then, Edwin Encarnacion connected with a fastball, doubling and driving in both runners. That would be all they needed as the Jays bullpen would shut down the Rangers.
Jays win 3-1.
June 14, 2013
In the previous two games, starting pitching was helping to keep the Jays in the game. It was giving them an opportunity to win ball games.
On Friday, Mark Buehrle not only kept the Jays in the game, but completely shut down the frosty Texas bats. He allowed no runs and only four hits and a walk over seven innings.
The Jays bats also came alive. Encarnacion, Lind, Izturis, and Bonifacio all had two hits. Colby Rasmus had just one hit in the fourth, but it was a big one. He took an 0-2 pitch and hit a 3-run bomb off Justin Grimm. J.P. Arencibia would hit a solo shot later in the inning.
The Jays bats would add four more runs before the end of the night.
Jays win 8-0.
June 15, 2013
Adam Lind got the Jays off to a great start by hitting a two-run blast to right-field. Now it was all up to Dickey to keep them in it.
Dickey was coming off a loss where he gave up 10 hits and seven earned runs over five innings against the White Sox. It was the game just before this—now three game win streak—began. At first it seemed as though Dickey might continue with what dominance Buehrle showed the day before. Over the first three innings, he shut down Texas effectively. But in the fourth inning, he looked shaky, giving up two hits and a walk. Still he was able to avoid any runs scoring by striking out Chris McGuiness to end the inning.
The struggles would continue, however. Dickey would eventually get the hook in the sixth inning after allowing a run. He would allow seven hits and three walks in the start, but managed to escape with just that one run allowed. The Jays bullpen would go on to shutout the Rangers for the rest of the game.
The Jays created four more runs, but nothing more was needed than Lind’s first-inning homer.
Jays win 6-1.
June 16, 2013
The spirited Jays came to the ballpark with the opportunity to sweep the Texas Rangers on the road. Wang—the man who started the streak—was the man who was going to have to do it.
Wang had a somewhat similar game to Dickey’s the day before. He allowed base runners (seven hits, three walks), but shutout the Rangers and lasted for seven innings. The Rangers stranded 11 runners during the game.
Meanwhile, the Jays bats stayed hot. The three home runs came from: Rasmus, Lind, and Arencibia—all who had homered already during the series, and the third consecutive game with one for Rasmus. Lind had three hits in the game, driving in three runs.
The Rangers would score two inconsequential runs in the ninth. Too little, too late.
Jays win 7-2.
June 17, 2013
The Jays returned home to just over 20,000 to see them play the Rockies. They hoped to continue with the high-powered offense from the core lineup. They hoped struggling Josh Johnson—who had recently missed some starts due to injury—would do enough to keep them in the game.
Unlikely heroes came through for the Jays. Johnson had his best game of the year to date, striking out 10 batters while allowing only five hits and two walks.
Izturis, hitting from the very bottom of the line-up, had two hits in the game. The only other for the Jays came from Davis. A bloop single by Izturis, that fell in the right place, put the Jays on the board. Even more surprisingly, Izturis, replacing injured Reyes at shortstop, looked stellar with his defensive play. After a ball came back toward Johnson and skipped across the mound, Izturis made a diving grab and quickly threw out the runner at first. You could see Johnson mouth the words, “That a boy,” as he walked to the dugout.
Blue Jays are finding all kinds of ways to win.
Jays win 2-0.
June 18, 2013
On a six game win streak now, the Jays must be thinking that they have something special.
And Rogers does keep rolling, shutting out the Rockies for six innings before giving up a couple of runs in the seventh inning. Rogers only allows four hits, not giving one up until the sixth inning. He’s looking impressive for a guy who was not supposed to be in a starting role and the beginning of the season.
The Jays really knock Francis around from the start. Melky Cabrera starts off the game with a single, and they Jays don’t let up, scoring four runs to open the game. They end up with 11 hits and homeruns from Encarnacion, Arencibia, and the still on fire Izturis.
Jays win 8-3.
June 19, 2013
The last day with the Rockies in town, and a chance for back-to-back sweeps.
The Jays have yet another game where they are all over the opposing pitcher from the get go. This time Juan Nicasio is the victim. It doesn’t help that Bautista gets on base after Nolan Arenado, from third, throws one away. Encarnacion then singles. Adam Lind then hits a home run, giving the Jays an early 3-0 lead.
They end up needing those early runs as Mark Buehrle doesn’t appear to be on his game. They manage to escape with no runs against in the first inning despite two hits by the Rockies and Arencibia allowing a passed ball. Buehrle only gets through five innings, allowing eight hits, and two earned runs including a Carlos Gonzalez homer in the fifth inning.
The Jays bullpen picks up the slack for the remaining innings. Wagner, Cecil, Delabar, and Janssen all contribute to shutout the Rockies and complete the sweep.
Jays win 5-2.
June 21, 2013
There’s some concern about what the day off will do to the streak. Will everyone suddenly wake from this dream? Can the Jays now pull off a win within the division against the Orioles?
It doesn’t take long before any concerns are erased. Encarnacion doubles in the first, then Adam Lind homers in the next at bat. The Jays are on the board early yet again.
It’s 3-1 Jays heading into the sixth inning and everything looks to be going well. The Orioles get a couple hits against Dickey, then Adam Jones singles to score a run and advance another runner to second.
Chris Davis steps to the plate, already with 26 home runs on the year. Dickey throws a knuckler, but it doesn’t knuckle. Davis connects and the ball smacks off the back wall of the dugout. The Jays suddenly trail by two, and it’s as if someone threw a bucket of ice water on these dreaming Jays.
Encarnacion answers back in the bottom of the sixth with a solo shot. This is negated when Dickey surrenders another home run to start the seventh inning. After another walk, Gibbons replaces Dickey with Cecil.
It seems as if maybe everything won’t keep going their way as the Jays trail by two heading into the bottom of the seventh. But just when it does, the improbable happens. With Izturis on base, Munenori Kawasaki takes Tommy Hunter deep to tie the game. Hunter turns and looks into the distance like someone just sucker punched him in the gut and ran away.
It’s all tied in the bottom of the ninth when Maicer Izturis gets a key single to lead off. Josh Thole lays down a key sacrifice bunt to advance him. Kawasaki has a chance for more magic and to win with a walk-off, but he grounds out to second. But with two outs, Rajai Davis belts a line-drive single for his second walk-off of the year.
Jays win 7-6.
June 22, 2013
The Jays look to continue rolling with Wang in his third start of the streak.
Another first-inning run for the Jays starts the game, but this time via a wild pitch by Miguel Gonzalez.
Both Gonzalez and Wang battle for the better part of the game, with Wang being replaced early at the top of the seventh.
In the eighth, Buck Showalter goes to the pen and replaces Gonzalez with Darren O’Day. It seems to be a move that makes sense as O’Day was able to strike-out Jose Bautista in the previous game, a key at bat following Kawasaki’s homerun where Bautista could have batted in a go-ahead run. After the strikeout, O’Day pranced off the mound and said something, causing Bautista to stare him down.
But that was yesterday.
After Davis grounds into a force at second, the stage is set for a two-out showdown. Bautista gets around on a pitch inside and it squeaks over the corner of left-field wall. The fans leap with outstretched arms. As Bautista runs along the third base line he makes a talky-talky gesture with his hand at O’Day.
Janssen closes it out in the ninth, striking out Adam Jones and then Chris Davis to add an exclamation point on the game.
Jays win 4-2.
June 23, 2013
Now the chance for back-to-back-to-back sweeps. A chance for an 11-game win streak, done only twice by the Jays—in 1987 with Tony Fernandez and Dave Stieb leading the way; and in 1998 with Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens with dominant numbers.
The Jays continue with what’s been working by getting on the board early. After being hit around, Freddy Garcia plunks Arencibia to surrender a run in the first. But the Jays wouldn’t stop there, they’d score three in the second, and five in the third, taking an early 9-0 lead.
Arencibia and Encarnacion would each have three hits for the game. With that kind of hitting Josh Johnson didn’t need to be amazing, and he wasn’t. He allowed four runs over six innings.
The Jays tied the streak and completed the back-to-back-to back sweep. More importantly they moved to just five games back of Boston for the division lead.
Jays win 13-5.
So we know how the rest of the season went—not well. But it was an enjoyable and exciting part of the season nonetheless, and no one knew what the future held.
There are some interesting notes about this streak. Both Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie were on the DL. Because of all the shuffling around, Gibbons had Bautista hitting out of the two spot in the order. The typical first four being Cabrera, Bautista, Encarnacion, and Lind.
In six of the games the Jays had first inning runs. Is it due to the modified order? Well, this lineup was also used before and after the streak, but with less success. And for much of the streak, Bautista struggled at the plate.
A lot of it was luck. Running into a cold Texas team certainly helped. But a lot of it was also everyone else stepping up when needed. Izturis, in particular, shined both with his bat and defense. Lind was big with his bat. Starting pitching, for the most part, kept them in ball games, perhaps with the pressure being alleviated with so many early runs.
No one really knows why these things happen. Let’s just hope we have an even better run to talk about next year, one that promises better results at the end of the season.