TORONTO – When Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor felt the energy inside Rogers Centre during David Price’s Toronto Blue Jays debut, and it reminded him of SkyDome 22 years ago.
“I’ve seen that atmosphere here before,” said Molitor, the Blue Jays’ designated hitter when they last won the World Series in 1993. “It was nice to see. The Toronto fans have had to wait for a long time.”
The Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs since then, but their recent run amid a flurry of trades at the deadline has the city and the clubhouse buzzing. Winners of eight in a row, Toronto has only lost once since acquiring star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
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Getting Tulowitzki, ace David Price, outfielder Ben Revere, relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe has sparked the Blue Jays, who swept the New York Yankees over the weekend to move a game and a half back of first place in the American League East. Even before that domination at Yankee Stadium, players started to sense a different feeling than ever before.
Starter Mark Buehrle said this is reminiscent of 2005, when he won the World Series with the Chicago White Sox. The Blue Jays look unstoppable and have an aura of invincibility about them.
“There were times when we’d be down two runs in the seventh inning and it was like, ‘We don’t care, we’re going to win this game, somehow we’re going to find a way to win this game,’ and we do,” Buehrle said Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s the guys we brought in here, or the way we’re playing right now, it’s just that feeling that if we get down two runs in the first or second inning, just try to hold the other team down because we know we’re going to score runs, especially with this offence, we can put up a bunch of runs.”
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Led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays lead Major League Baseball with 5.28 runs a game. After adding Tulowitzki, Donaldson called it “the best lineup in baseball,” and it’s hard to argue that right now.
Toronto’s pitching has drastically improved, too. They allowed one run in three games against the Yankees after the rotation was stellar in a four-game sweep of the Twins.
The combination of power that Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost called “ridiculous” and timely pitching has been a winning recipe.
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“I feel like synergy’s a good word for this team,” knuckleballer R.A. Dickey said. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’m just a puzzle piece and so is Josh, and as big of a name as Tulo is he’s just a piece, and we all know it. It’s neat to play on a team like that.”
As good as the offence was, the Blue Jays were out of a playoff spot and hanging around .500 when general manager Alex Anthopoulos traded a pile of pitching prospects to improve this team for this run.
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Since the additions, Rogers Centre has been the site of multiple sellouts, with the Blue Jays anticipating many more in the coming weeks. On the field and in the clubhouse, the “special feeling” that Buehrle said was hard to describe is having a real impact.
“We are very confident, no doubt about that,” manager John Gibbons said. “It’s really picked up since Alex made those trades. It’s a better team, no question about that, but we’re feeling really good right now.