May 25, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) gets a base hit in the fifth inning in a game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. The Toronto Blue Jays won 3-1.Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose, Steve Tolleson playing big roles for Blue Jays

When a team has a month like the one the Toronto Blue Jays have built in May of 2014 (18-7), the credit is often handed to the bigger fish, the guys in the middle of the line-up going on a tear. And that’s justifiable, considering what Edwin Encarnacion (13 HR, 26 RBI) and Melky Cabrera (.298/16 runs/ 17 RBI) have done during the month of May.

But there are plenty of rewards to go around for the smaller fish as well. Monday’s rout of the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto’s 7th straight win, was proof positive of that.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, and with the game knotted at 2, the Blue Jays got a lead-off home run from Dioner Navarro to start the frame. That was followed by second baseman Steve Tolleson, who took the very next offering from Erik Bedard into the second deck in left field.

It was there again in the the top of the 5th. After giving up back-to-back home runs to Desmond Jennings and James Loney with one out in the inning, Drew Hutchison surrendered a single to center to Wil Myers. Myers tried to stretch the hit into a double, something the Rays are quite good at. Anthony Gose had other ideas. The Blue Jays center fielder came up firing, nailing Myers at second base for his second outfield assist of the season. The play turned into a big out, as Hutchison would settle down and get Cole Figueroa to end the inning, preserving the tie and enabling the Blue Jays line-up to do their job in the top of the next inning.

The little guy played the big fish again in the top of the 8th as well. After Todd Redmond had surrenderd a single to Yunel Escobar and issued a walk to David DeJesus, the Rays looked as though they were starting a little rally and had Evan Longoria coming to the dish. Redmond threw him a 1-0 sinker that Longoria hit for a sinking liner to right and appeared destined for extra bases. However Kevin Pillar, starting in right with Jose Bautista in the DH slot, made a nice sliding grab for the out.

Those examples are just from Monday night’s win, but Pillar and Tolleson have been playing key roles in the Blue Jays recent turnaround, especially over the course of the last 7 days.

Over the course of the recent win streak, Steve Tolleson has appeared in all 7 contests, and while he has been platooned around and pinch hit for, he has made the most of his opportunities. In 18 plate appearances during the streak, Tolleson is slashing .389/.450/.722 and has hit 2 of his 5 career home runs during that span. Moving the bar back 30 days, Tolleson has hit .311 with a 1.014 OPS, a mark that is second to just Encarnacion over that time period.

Not to be outdone, Pillar has been equally as formidable While appearing primarily in a platoon rotation with Anthony Gose, the outfielder has put up a .467/.467/.600 slash line over the last 7 games (6 appearances). Over the last 30 days, that played out to a .333 average and a .778 OPS while making appearances in all three outfield slots.

Not to be outdone, Gose has put up his own slash of .321/.424/.429 with 3 RBI and 4 runs scored in the last month.

The play of these three, coupled with some solid management by Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons have given Toronto a new breath of life. The line-up is deeper from top to bottom. The bench is allowing platoon rotations that benefit the team rather than are necessitated by health. This has allowed the entire line-up to relax, knowing that the top of order doesn’t have to overcompensate for the short-comings the bottom exhibited earlier this season.

That has put a breath of life into both the Blue Jays and the fan base, helping to push another disappointing season into the rear-view mirror and the goal of once again being a contender once again into the present.

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Tags: Anthony Gose Kevin Pillar Steve Tolleson Toronto Blue Jays

  • Andrew van Laar

    I am liking this rendition of the Jays. Tolleson has been a nice addition at second with decent defense and carrying his own at the dish. Gose and Pillar have been great subbing for Colby (anyone think we should trade him? huh huh??? :P).

    What I really liked was Hendricks last start a few days ago. I have never seen a ball player after the game tip his hat to the umpire. So I saw that and thought wow that was classy and it never hurts to show some respect to the umps but them during the post game interview he was great and candid and even shook the reporters hand. Does the word class act come to mind after watching him? I was brought up in a family that valued respect above almost anything else and its refreshing to see a player who respects the “lesser beings” that are important to our game :)

    • RyanMueller

      I enjoyed seeing that also. I always like when Wells would tip his cap to pitchers before an at-bat as a sign of respect before the dual/battle between a pitcher and batter began.
      Nice comment andrew

  • RyanMueller

    I like what I have seen from pillar but am still waiting for him to show more plate discipline. He has shown good plate coverage but need better pitch recognition if he ever wishes to stick.
    Gose has shown a lot of maturity in his approach this year and is showing he is more advanced in his development than pillar is.

    • Michael Wray

      It’s really something when a player’s batting averages equals his on base percentage.

      • Kyle Franzoni

        In fairness, that’s because he has yet to draw a walk this season…

        • Michael Wray

          What do you think the over/under on PAs is before he finally draws a walk? My guess is 50.

      • RyanMueller

        That what my ops looks like when I play the show. No matter how hard I try I just can’t not swing.

        • Michael Wray

          Plate discipline in that game takes years to master