Blue Jays: 5 biggest reasons for 2nd-half surge, playoff berth
Toronto is 38-14 since July 28
The Toronto Blue Jays are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1993, ending the longest drought in North American professional sports.
They've clinched at least a spot in the American League wild-card game and are chasing down the East Division pennant.
On July 28, the day Toronto began its trading frenzy by acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins, the team was 50-51 and sat three games back of the second wild-card spot. They're 38-14 since.
Here are the biggest reasons the Blue Jays turned their season around:
'Can't get no damn ice cream' lineup
With Tulowitzki and outfielder Ben Revere added to what was already the best run-producing lineup in baseball, the Blue Jays' offence became almost unstoppable. Lloyd Moseby, the centre-fielder on the 1985 American League East-champion Blue Jays, said the lineup is so good, you can't leave your seat - you "can't get no damn ice cream" - for fear of missing something. The Blue Jays have averaged almost six runs a game since the trade deadline.
David Price could go down as the best deadline pitching pickup in major-league history. The lefty ace has nine victories, one loss and one no decision in 11 starts since going from the Detroit Tigers to the Blue Jays. Price has 87 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 74 1/3 innings and a 2.30 earned-run average. While taking over the top of the rotation, the impending free agent became the AL Cy Young front-runner.
Donaldson 4-0 MVP
Josh Donaldson reached 40 home runs in the Blue Jays' 88th victory of the season, and the all-star third baseman has been the club's most consistent hitter all season. Acquired from the Oakland Athletics for Brett Lawrie in the off-season, Donaldson is hitting .301 with a .950 OPS with a major-league-leading 121 runs batted in. He left Mike Trout in the dust in the AL MVP race and led the Blue Jays into October.
Running of the bullpen
Blown leads were all too common the first half of the season, before manager John Gibbons could find a closer to replace the departed Casey Janssen. Relievers were tried and failed before the 20-year-old Roberto Osuna took over the job and thrived. Osuna has 18 saves in 20 opportunities. In front of him, Brett Cecil hasn't allowed an earned run since the all-star break and Aaron Sanchez has settled in as the set-up man.
Rotation on point
Beyond Price, the Blue Jays' starting rotation has been excellent at times and at least efficient at others. R.A. Dickey is 8-1 with a 2.95 ERA since the break, and Marco Estrada is 7-3 with a 2.70 ERA. Drew Hutchison has struggled on the road, and Mark Buehrle is battling through, but then Marcus Stroman returned from a torn ACL to go 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three September starts. Toronto is well-positioned in this area for the post-season.