The Blue Jays are rolling. Toronto is a season-high seven games over .500 after taking three of four from the Philadelphia Phillies in their inter-league matchup, winning the seventh of their last eight series and the sixth of their last seven games.
The Jays now sit two games back of the Orioles in the American League East, with a big three-game set up next in Baltimore that could see them return home with the top spot in the division. Or, facing a much bigger deficit.
Bautista’s banged-up big toe
Right-fielder Jose Bautista, who returned to the lineup at the start of this series after missing three games with a tight hip flexor, left the game Thursday after he crashed into the right-field fence while running down a fly ball. Bautista, who missed the ball and smacked into the fence, was initially diagnosed with “left big toe soreness.”
In other Bautista news, Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor said Thursday that he isn’t sorry for punching him earlier this season. Nobody is surprised, Odor.
Estrada’s quiet dominance continues
Marco Estrada was on the mound in Wednesday’s 7–2 victory, and the right-hander who eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before every start earned his fifth win of the season.
For the 10th straight start, Estrada went six or more innings. For the 10th straight start, he held the opposition to five hits or fewer—that’s a Blue Jays record. And for the 11th time in 13 starts this season, the 32-year-old gave up three runs or less.
Estrada’s hits per nine innings is second-best in MLB, at 5.359—he trails only Clayton Kershaw. That’s not bad at all. His 2.58 ERA is 11th best in MLB.
Manager John Gibbons shed a little light on his plan for young righty Aaron Sanchez: Sanchez is headed back to the bullpen once his number of innings pitched reaches a number the Blue Jays consider enough.
The hope is that Drew Hutchison, who’s pitching for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, would fill in for Sanchez in the rotation, and that Sanchez would improve the Jays bullpen. Gibbons called the move “a roll of the dice.”
Stroman bounces back
Entering this four-game set, Marcus Stroman had a 7.58 ERA in his last three starts. But the right-hander lasted seven innings Tuesday in an 11–3 victory, giving up six hits and two runs and striking out six to move to 6–2 on the season and reminding us all that Height Doesn’t Measure Heart.
Silent bats to start, then they got real loud
After being shut out in the opener of this series in a 7–0 loss—not the type of game the rebuilding Phillies are used to—the Jays came out swinging in Game No. 2. And Game 3. And Game 4.
On Tuesday, highly touted Phillies pitching prospect Zach Eflin didn’t exactly have a fun MLB debut. Josh Donaldson hit a grand slam and drove in five runs to lead the Jays to an 11-3 win, going three for four with two doubles. Toronto had 14 hits.
On Thursday, the Blue Jays faced strikeout king Aaron Nola, but managed to do a whole lot of hitting—they racked up 17, total. Donaldson was three-for-three. Edwin Encarnacion, Kevin Pillar, Michael Saunders and Devon Travis all hit homers.
As for Encarnacion, he has a team-leading 18 home runs. He’s clocked one over the fence in five of his last six games.
Happ does it again
J.A. Happ leads Toronto starters with eight wins after picking up another one on Thursday. He went seven innings, gave up three hits and no earned runs and struck out five. (He also had a hit.) His ERA is now 3.41.