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News » Blue Jays set early AL East pace


Blue Jays set early AL East pace


Blue Jays set early AL East pace
Baseball REPORTER,

Before anybody starts planning a championship parade, a couple of things need to be put into perspective when discussing the Toronto Blue Jays' terrific start.

The Jays begin a three-game home set today at Rogers Centre against the Texas Rangers and a win - Roy Halladay (3-0) is on the mound, which bodes well - would improve their record to 11-4.

The last time Toronto went 11-4 to begin a regular season was in 2001 - and the Blue Jays went on to finish third in the American League East with a record of 80-82, 16 games behind the front-running New York Yankees.

The Blue Jays have won their first four series of 2009, are hitting hotter than Hades, and are getting unexpected results from a young pitching staff. Their 10-4 record sits them atop the AL East, and has them basking among the best in Major League Baseball.

But things can change quickly in a Baseball season, which is more of an endurance race than a sprint.

"It's just two weeks in, and you know who's going to be good," Blue Jays interim president Paul Beeston said yesterday. "You know the Yankees are going to be good, you know that Boston and Tampa Bay are going to be good and Baltimore's improving."

Last season did not start off so badly for Toronto, either: After 14 games, Toronto had a 8-6 record and was tied for second in the AL East.

But a lousy conclusion to April, in which the Jays lost eight of their last nine games, dropped Toronto all the way to fifth place.

Before the season was out, the team had fired manager John Gibbons, had lost centre fielder Vernon Wells to the disabled list on two occasions, and wound up finishing fourth in the division at 86-76.

This season, because of injuries to their pitching staff and the free-agent defection of starter A.J. Burnett to the New York Yankees, the Blue Jays were anticipating having to take a step back before being able to mount a serious challenge for the division title next year.

But in the topsy-turvy AL East, it is the Blue Jays who are leading the pack, with the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays struggling to keep pace.

Heading into play last night, the Rays - the 2008 AL champions - were last at 5-8. Surprisingly, that's exactly the same spot the Rays found themselves last year through their first 13 games.

At this early stage of the season, it appears the Yankees might have the most difficult task of being able to turn things around - and this despite a massive off-season free-agent spending spree and the move into a luxurious new stadium where baseballs have been flying out at a record rate.

During the Yankees' four-game set last week against the Cleveland Indians at their new $1.5-billion (U.S.) facility, the teams combined for 20 home runs - the most during an opening homestand at a new ballpark.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, their pitching is springing leaks with CC Sabathia looking rather normal so far and Chien-Ming Wang getting knocked out early in his first three starts. After their 7-3 win over Cleveland last Sunday, the Yankees' team earned-run-average was an unsightly 6.53, second-worst in the AL.

The Red Sox, the other perennial AL East powerhouse, appear to have righted themselves, completing a four-game sweep over the Orioles at Fenway Park yesterday with a 12-1 romp.

The best news for Red Sox fans was the revival of slugger David Ortiz, who came into the game hitting an anemic .170 but belted a double and a triple and drove in two runs yesterday.

As for the continued hot play of the Blue Jays , Beeston said he has detected a bit of a buzz around the city now that hockey's Toronto Maple Leafs and basketball's Toronto Raptors are no longer engaged.

"It will be a tough pace to maintain," he said. "But you're better off trying to maintain what we've done so far than to maintain something a lot lower."

*****

ON DECK

Notes Heading into today's game, Cito Gaston has forged a record of 61-41 since he took over from John Gibbons as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays on June 20, 2008. ... Shortstop Marco Scutaro's streak of reaching base safely in Toronto's first 13 games this season came to a halt Sunday against the Oakland A's when he went 0-for-4. ... The team that has claimed the wild-card berth in the American League has needed at least 94 wins the past five years. In four of those years, the wild card came from the AL East.

NEXT Today, Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre, 7:07 p.m. EDT

PROBABLES Jays RHP Roy Halladay (3-0, 3.00) v. Rangers RHP Brandon McCarthy (1-0, 4.91)

TV Rogers Sportsnet

Robert MacLeod


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 21, 2009

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