The Toronto Blue Jays continue to be surprised by Kevin Pillar. His journey from fringe outfielder to Superman has been well documented in 2015, but his October performance could give the Blue Jays that one playoff performer that every team needs.
R.A. Dickey is fond of saying that, in order for the Jays to make a true run at the World Series, they’ll need contributions from unexpected places. He’s used that on several occasions to explain the prominent role of Marco Estrada in the pitching rotation, but the same applies to Pillar.
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The centre fielder’s regular season at the plate was solid, and little more, but that’s all that was needed from him. His triple-slash of .278 / .315 / .399 doesn’t represent a significant jump from his 2014 numbers, but playing an everyday role and facing pitchers multiple times, this is an accomplishment. Staying afloat at the plate also allowed Pillar’s defense to shine, as he turned in one of the strongest defensive seasons in Blue Jays franchise history.
In the ALDS, however, his bat has jolted to life. Pillar has gone 7-for-17 with two runs, two doubles, a home run and four RBI. Those seven hits tie him for the playoff lead with Colby Rasmus and Carlos Correa. Fellow outfielder Ben Revere is enjoying a nice playoff run, himself, going 6-for-19 up to this point.
This performance from Pillar, like the lower-third production from this lineup has done all season long, will grind on Cole Hamels as it eliminates a true resting spot in the lineup. If Pillar or Revere are able to reach base safely in Wednesday’s fifth and deciding game, it could also give the Blue Jays the option of playing a little small ball.
Pillar quietly stole 25 bases in the regular season while being caught just four times, and given the likelihood that a Hamels-Stroman matchup will produce a low-scoring game, it’s possible that the score could be tilted by something as simple as a stolen bag or a runner advancing from first to third on a single. The Rangers have gotten that from Rougned Odor, Toronto has gotten it from Pillar.
If he’s able to add some hits in game five, or perhaps another of his patented highlight-reel plays in centre, Pillar could even make a case for the ALDS MVP. A dominant pitching performance from Marcus Stroman would surely send him home with the hardware, but the fact that Pillar’s name is even involved in this conversation is impressive.