ANAHEIM, Calif. – Bludgeoning doesn’t really do it justice. Check a thesaurus and pick your adjective – bash, batter, clobber, fustigate, hammer, pummel, etc. – and none of them adequately describes how badly the Toronto Blue Jays overwhelmed the Los Angeles Angels in a three-game sweep over the weekend.
This is the type of series that causes teams on the losing end of the fustigation (we like that word) to look in the mirror and really think about things. Coming off a good series against the Chicago White Sox, the Angels had visions of gaining ground on the Blue Jays in the wild card race, and instead they head out for a nine-game road trip with at least a crisis of confidence, if not a full blown crisis on their hands.
To see one contender beat down another in such decisive fashion – the Blue Jays established a new franchise record for runs in a three-game series with 36, and hits at 48 – was, frankly, shocking.
"We’re on fire right now," said manager John Gibbons. "It was a heck of a series, I really can’t describe it. But one thing we do is score runs, we’ve been doing that all year."
Sunday’s series finale underscored the point, as the Angels jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first inning, whacking around R.A. Dickey before he settled in, only to watch helplessly as the Blue Jays scored two in the second, three in the third, two in the fourth and another in the sixth to take control of what ended a 12-5 victory.
For good measure they added on a pair in the eighth and one more in the ninth to surpass their previous record of 34 runs against the Boston Red Sox from May 30-June 1, 2003 and 46 hits versus the Milwaukee Brewers from Sept. 27-29, 1985, while leap-frogging the New York Yankees, 4-3 losers to the Cleveland Indians, for top spot in the American League East by a half-game.
Once the Blue Jays’ rally started in the second, when Troy Tulowitzki’s grounder with the bases loaded ate up Kaleb Cowart at third to allow two runs to score, there was an air of inevitability about how things would turn out.
"We’re relaxed, we’re ready to hit when we’re in the box, we’re having good at-bats and everybody is on the same page, swinging at strikes, laying off bad pitches and really executing well one through nine," said Jose Bautista. "With a lineup so deep like this, if 7, 8, 9 are getting on base, whoever is on the other side is going to have trouble shutting us down. It’s fun, we hope to continue doing what we’re doing and the last month has been that type of attitude where we feel like we can’t lose any game."
The Blue Jays tied it in the third on RBI singles by Edwin Encarnacion and Ben Revere before Erick Aybar’s error on Ryan Goins’ bouncer up the middle allowed Kevin Pillar to score the go-ahead run.
Bautista and Encarnacion went back-to-back off the tough Garrett Richards in the fourth and it was basically over at that point.
You almost felt sorry for the Angels.
"Today was probably my favourite win all year," said Dickey. "I know that’s odd to hear. I gave up a five spot in the first, which I can’t ever remember a time in my big-league career where I’ve done that. I was walking a tightrope of being pulled in the first in my shortest outing ever as a big-leaguer.
"When I came in the dugout everybody was still upbeat. There was no reason to pout. I look at things in terms of metaphor so much, it really felt like a family win. The guys are encouraging you and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to get them back, don’t worry.’ They did."
The 69-55 Blue Jays moved a season-best 14 games over .500 and are now 4-1 on their eight-game road trip heading into a three-gamer against the Texas Rangers (64-59) at Globe Life Park in Arlington that starts Tuesday. Texas is now 1.5 games up on the Angels (63-61) for the second wild card.
Dickey, coming off a so-so outing against Oakland and a rough start versus the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, was knocked around for six hits in a five-run first, when his knuckleball was relatively flat.
But he stabilized after surrendering a leadoff single to Mike Trout in the second, inducing a double play grounder from Albert Pujols and cruising from there through the sixth. He induced three double plays in all and was the beneficiary of a clever play from Tulowtizki in the fifth, as David Murphy hit what should have been a leadoff double, but was called out when he slightly popped off the bag coming out of his slide.
Tulowtizki wisely kept the tag on, signalled to the dugout to challenge the safe call and the play was overturned on review.
"I knew right away, as soon as it happened I told us to take a look at that," he said. "I told Dickey he was out, he goes, ‘Oh, no, I think he was safe.’ I go, ‘No, he slid, trust me, he’s out.’ That was cool, that was a big play in the game, really, too."
Dickey described the play as a "game-changer," killing any Angels hopes of a rally with the score still 8-5, but at first he "didn’t believe him because I had never been part of a play like that. So I thought, maybe he thought he did. I’m glad he was right because it took me three (more) pitches to get out of that inning and then I was able to throw another one. It was a great family, community win. It was fun to be a part of."
Since the expansion of replay, Tulowtizki has made a point of keeping the tag on runners longer, just in case someone slips up the way Murphy did.
"If anything is going on, I try to be on top of everything, I take pride in that," he explained. "I’m not going to sit here and say the rule is great, but it is a rule and if a guy gets off the bag and you leave a tag on, he is out, so you might as well take advantage of it. It happens all the time, it’s not the first time I’ve gotten someone on that, and it won’t be the last, either, I can promise you."
Brett Cecil, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna locked down the final three frames, wrapping up a series in which they didn’t just sweep their opponents, they demolished them.