Even general manager Alex Anthopoulos did his best to downplay the acquisitions of starter-turned reliever J.A. Happ and bullpen mates Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter, saying "this was a depth deal ... it looks like a greater deal because of the quantity of players."
But the Jays, in fact, might look back in two months at the timing of this move and their subsequent performance in Boston, a three-game sweep of the Red Sox over the weekend by a total score of 28-11, as the turning point in their playoff pursuit.
Laffey, who has a career 4.19 earned-run average in 135 major league games, became the first Jays' starter to last seven innings since Henderson Alvarez on June 30, and has blanked Boston at Fenway Park twice this season covering 13 innings.
Like Laffey, Villanueva also seemed intent on not surrendering his spot in the rotation and stepped up his game with 6 1/3 strong innings in his fourth start of the season, earning his fifth win in Saturday's 7-3 triumph.
"I think it shows that they're trying upstairs," Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen said of Friday's trade. "I'm a big play-for-the-now [player] as opposed to towards the future and I think that this move is showing that we're going to try [for a playoff berth] this year."
The addition of Happ and Lyon, who combined to retire all five batters they faced Saturday, provides experience in a bullpen featuring non-household names such as Chad Beck, Aaron Loup and Drew Carpenter.
Meanwhile the Blue Jays offence, which has busted out at various times this season, had its best series of the year in Boston - highlighted by Sunday's season-high 15 runs, 18 hits and four homers - after being outscored 18-4 in three games in the Bronx earlier in the week.
That's a good sign considering Toronto was minus its top hitter for all three games in Beantown as right-fielder Jose Bautista remains on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his left wrist.
Third baseman Brett Lawrie returned to the lineup Saturday following a one-plus game absence after sustaining a right calf contusion while attempting to catch a foul ball in the third base camera bay at Yankee Stadium. He showed no ill effects, driving in three runs Saturday and adding two hits including his ninth home run of the season Sunday.
Sunday's result moved the Jays back over .500 with a 48-47 record. It also moved the club past the Red Sox and out of last place in the American League East standings and to within three games of Baltimore, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels for the league's two wild-card spots.
"The wild card is still there," struggling Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero told reporters after Friday's trade. "We've got two, two and a half months left of baseball and anytime you're able to make a move like that to help the team out, I'm all for it."
A couple of positives stuck out in the Red Sox series. First, Toronto was able to strike first on the scoreboard in two of the games and battled back from a 3-0, second-inning deficit on Saturday.
Also, the offensive production came from a variety of sources and not the same two or three players. In Sunday's 15-7 debacle, seven players reached base at least twice and five players posted multi-RBI games.
"I thought we executed in many different ways, whether it was a safety squeeze, sac bunt, moving guys over, sac fly, and obviously we drove some balls out of the ballpark," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell.
It marked the fourth time this season that Toronto swept or won a series right after being swept.
"Our team has been able to bounce back," said Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia, who homered and drove in six runs in the Boston series.
But any hope of playoff baseball in Toronto hinges on the consistency of the starting pitching and overall team health, which has plagued the Blue Jays this season. They need Romero to pitch like he did in April (3 wins, 3.18 ERA), Brandon Morrow to return from a strained left oblique (rib cage) injury and regain his early-season form (3.01 ERA) and for Laffey and Villanueva to do what they've been doing.
Toronto will also need to improve upon its 15-19 record against divisional opponents. Baltimore and Tampa Bay are ahead of the Jays in the wild-card race and Boston is only a half-game back. Of Toronto's remaining 67 contests, 25 are against the aforementioned teams.
Next up are a pair of three-game series against Oakland and Detroit. The Athletics are a major league-best 14-2 in July while the Tigers have won five straight, sit atop the AL Central and bolstered their lineup Monday by acquiring starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante in a trade with Miami.
While many Jays fans would have turned a blind eye to this homestand two months ago, it's time they file this week's action under the "big deal" category.
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