Long ball and starting rotation stability helping Blue Jays to strong start - InfoNews

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Long ball and starting rotation stability helping Blue Jays to strong start

Toronto Blue Jays' Luke Maile, right, high-fives teammate Steve Pearce after scoring on Yangervis Solarte's single in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
April 12, 2018 - 9:00 AM

If the Toronto Blue Jays continue their current pace, they will post the best winning percentage for the month of April in franchise history.

They're off to a solid start thanks to a stabilized starting rotation, timely offence and solid contributions from the bullpen.

Here's a look at five reasons why the Blue Jays, who continue their road trip Friday in Cleveland, are off to a good start:


Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez is once again a key cog in Toronto's starting rotation.

After leading American League starters in earned-run average in 2016, Sanchez was limited to eight starts last year due to a finger injury.

He appears to have rediscovered his form in the early going this season, and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a win over Baltimore last Tuesday.

Sanchez has been dominant so far against right-handed batters, holding them to a .128 batting average over three starts.

His presence allows Toronto to roll out a deep five-man crew that includes J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada and Jaime Garcia.


Toronto's hopes of reaching the playoffs for a third straight year last season were essentially derailed after a terrible April.

The Blue Jays struggled to a 2-11 start and never really recovered, spending almost the entire season in the East division basement.

Toronto opened the 2018 campaign by dropping two of three to the New York Yankees in March before rebounding with a 7-3 record so far this month.

The Blue Jays, now 8-5, needed 12 games to reach the eight-win mark this year. Last year, Toronto played 25 games before posting its eighth victory.

The team's best winning percentage for April came in 1992 (.696 after 16-7 start).


The days of sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion anchoring the Blue Jays' offence are long gone.

Justin Smoak and Josh Donaldson are two of the big boppers in the heart of the batting order now, and they have had plenty of support.

Toronto has hit home runs in a Major League Baseball-leading 12 different games this season. Entering play Thursday, the Blue Jays were second in MLB with 19 homers.

Donaldson, Steve Pearce and Aledmys Diaz share the team lead with three homers apiece while Smoak, Russell Martin and Yangervis Solarte have all gone deep on two occasions.


Veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson quietly signed a one-year contract worth US$5 million with the Blue Jays last January.

If he keeps up his current pace, it will be quite the bargain.

The three-time all-star's numbers have slipped in recent seasons but he is on an early tear this year.

The 36-year-old Granderson has a .353 batting average, .436 on-base percentage and .995 OPS (on-base plus slugging).


Complete games are a rarity early in the regular season, making the bullpen's performance that much more important.

Setup man Ryan Tepera and closer Roberto Osuna have delivered so far.

Tepera has held opponents to a .174 batting average while posting a 2.57 earned-run average over seven appearances.

Osuna, meanwhile, has converted all five of his save opportunities and has yet to allow an earned run in six outings. He worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning Tuesday for his 100th career save.

The 23-year-old became the youngest pitcher in MLB history to reach the plateau.


Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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