October 10, 2016 - 7:04 PM
TORONTO - September was a month the Toronto Blue Jays would like to forget.
If they keep up their current level of play, October could very well be a month they remember.
The Blue Jays defeated Texas 7-6 on Sunday night to eliminate the Rangers from the post-season. The victory gave Toronto a welcome break before the start of the American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians that begins on Friday.
After going just 11-16 last month, Toronto is a perfect 6-0 in October after a pair of critical regular-season wins in Boston, a wild-card victory over Baltimore and a three-game sweep of Texas.
"We turned the page on September," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "It wasn't necessarily a good month for us but now we're in October. So that's sometimes the way the game works too — month to month."
Cleveland beat Boston 4-3 on Monday to sweep the other AL Division Series and will host the first two games of the ALCS against Toronto.
Toronto's offence is a big reason why the team has moved on to baseball's final four.
The Blue Jays have outscored (27-12) and out-homered (10-3) the opposition in the playoffs. Edwin Encarnacion has led the way with three homers in four post-season games.
"What happened in September doesn't matter," said Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista. "We made it to the playoffs. We made it to the League Championship Series and that's the only thing that matters. We're doing our job."
Second baseman Devon Travis is nursing a bone bruise in his right knee and will welcome a few days off. Toronto management believes Travis is close to being able to play and that he had his "best day" on Monday.
"Devon, every day is better," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said in a conference call. "We are more optimistic today at 6 p.m. than we were at 5 p.m. It's not definite that he'll be playable but we feel very good about it."
The Toronto bullpen, which has been worked hard in recent weeks, could also use the break.
"Some people like to say a couple of days off might throw our timing off, I really don't believe in that," said Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin. "At this point in the year a couple days off can do wonders. So for our bullpen, our pitching, get everybody's arms fresh. And the same thing for guys who are banged up.
"A couple of days can go a long way in this game it seems like."
Two key Toronto pitchers remain out. Left-hander Francisco Liriano suffered a mild concussion last Friday and can return to the roster once he goes through Major League Baseball's seven-day concussion protocol. Atkins said that Liriano was able "to do physical activity with no symptoms" on Monday.
There is no timeline for the potential return of right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit, who is making progress as he recovers from a torn calf muscle.
"Now you get a few days off to catch your breath a little bit, which is really, really big for our group I think," Gibbons said. "But you know, we are who we are. We have to slug it out. That's really our identity."
The league championship series will be a best-of-seven affair. Toronto will host Games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, Game 5. Cleveland would host the final two games of the series if required.
Atkins, a longtime Indians executive before joining Toronto this past off-season, says that a matchup with Cleveland doesn't matter to him.
"There's individuals there that I know very well and care about but there's only one organization I work for and that's the Toronto Blue Jays," he said.
"Personally I am focused on us winning."
Toronto also reached the ALCS last year but fell to the Kansas City Royals in six games.
The best-of-seven World Series begins Oct. 25 at the home of the American League champion.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2016