Bird is the Word: Blue Jays surging in AL East

Suddenly, the Toronto Blue Jays are flying high.

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Look out, Boston. Heads up, Pinstripes. Tampa Bay, Baltimore? You’re on notice.

The resurgent Toronto Blue Jays have finally begun to perform as the pundits predicted they would in the offseason, and after a dozen days and a ten-game win streak, there’s suddenly, potentially, a whole new beast in the AL East. 

On Friday, the Jays edged Baltimore 7-6 to pull to .500 for the first time all year. On Saturday, they won their tenth in a row with a 4-2 victory over the Orioles to move to 37-36, tied with Tampa Bay at 6.5 games out of the East, and four games back in the wild card. If Toronto wins again Sunday, they will tie a franchise-record win streak set by their predecessors in 1989 and 1998.

When you consider the fact that just 13 days ago the Jays were 27-36 and 12 games out in the East, it’s an impressive feat.

Just ask the 2004 or '07 editions of the Red Sox — you never mess with momentum. And you underestimate it at your peril. Ask the 2004 Yankees and Cardinals and the '07 Indians and Rockies. 

All of a sudden North of the 49th parallel, there’s chemistry where there was enmity, self-confidence as opposed to uncertainty, and Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons have temporarily turned down the temperature on their respective Hot Seats.

“Being on this little roll we’re on, that brings out the best in you, guys feel it, but that’s the way big-league baseball is supposed to be,” manager John Gibbons said. “We’ve definitely come back to life, that’s for sure.”

While there are still question marks surrounding R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson, the starting pitching has seemingly worked out the early season kinks. Up to Friday, the starters had a streak of seven games allowing two earned runs or fewer.

And the bullpen has been undeniably dominant: heading into Friday’s game, the Jays relievers boasted a collective ERA of 0.65 (four runs in 55.2 innings) in June, lower than any other bullpen corps over a single month dating back to 1921. Until Taylor Teagarden teed off on eventual winner Darren Oliver for a home run on Saturday, the Jays bullpen had gone 28 consecutive innings without an earned run.

And don’t look now, but sparkplug and all-star shortstop Jose Reyes, who was lost to injury on April 12, could return to the lineup as soon as Monday, when the Jays head out on the road for seven key games against Tampa Bay and Boston.

That will be the acid test for Toronto, and a big determining factor in whether their recent success in the standings is a pipe dream or the real deal: Despite the sudden reversal in fortune, the Jays are only 14-20 against the AL East, and that's where they need to post the biggest turnaround. However, Toronto is 4-5 against the Sox and 4-3 against Tampa in 2013.

All at once and out of nowhere, it’s a whole new game of cards in a cramped American League East Division — and everybody has a killer hand.

Who's in?

Twitter: @jan_doh