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Come stay informed on the latest Toronto Blue Jays news this offseason! And, as always, The 500 Level will continue to delve into the history of the Blue Jays organization — from the infamous snowy April day in 1977, all the way to the present day.
With the Orioles in town, I took a moment today to reminisce about a very bizarre moment in Blue Jay history. I posted the piece over at Jays Nest (friends of The 500 Level). Check it out …
One of the knocks on the Toronto Blue Jays over the past few seasons has been their inability to put together win streaks. This year has been no different. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the longest win streak the Jays had posted was three games in length — which they have accomplished six times overall this year. Toronto extended that to four games in late June, sweeping the Colorado Rockies at home (June 22-24) and following that up with a win in Minnesota. A month later the club topped that with their longest win streak of the year thus far — a five-gamer from July 21-25 in which they beat Seattle twice and swept the Minnesota Twins at home.
By that time, however, the Boston Red Sox had already put together three separate five-game win streaks. The Sox have also won four in a row twice, and three straight nine times. The New York Yankees, meanwhile, have posted a pair of five-game winning streaks, won six straight on another occasion, and recorded a season-best nine-game winning streak from June 5-14.
An issue that runs parallel with lengthy winning streaks, of course, is the ability to put together series sweeps. While the Blue Jays have swept five three-game series (four at home) this year, they have also missed out on four other opportunities. On Thursday night the Blue Jays missed a chance to sweep the Los Angeles Angels, falling 4-3 at the Rogers Centre. The other occasions in which the Blue Jays have won the first two games of a series and failed to close out the three-game sweep include: May 11-13 vs. TB, May 28-30 vs. NY, June 15-17 vs. WAS.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have been on the losing end of a three-game series sweep five times as well this season:
April 20-22 @ BAL
May 1-3 @ CLE
May 4-6 @ TEX
May 8-10 @ BOS
June 29-July 1 @ SEA
To compare, in 1992 the Blue Jays recorded seven different three-game series sweeps. They also swept two four-gamers and five more short two-game mini-series. The eventual World Series champs also ran off several big win streaks, including a season-high eight-gamer to open July. The club also posted a six-gamer, a pair of five-gamers and three more win streaks of four games apiece.
The most impressive accomplishment by the Blue Jays during the ’92 regular season was that they managed to go the entire year without being on the losing end of a series sweep. No team had managed that feat since the 1943 Cardinals, and only four other teams had done so in major league history.
With the emergence of youngsters Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Jessie Litsch, the Blue Jays have enjoyed a number of solid pitching performances in the second half of the season. In fact, entering action against the Angels on Tuesday night, Toronto’s pitching staff leads the majors with a 3.40 ERA since the all-star break. Overall, the club’s 4.11 ERA currently ranks fourth in the American League, and would mark the second-lowest ERA — if the season ended today — that the Blue Jays have posted since 1997.
The lowest ERA Toronto has ever posted in a single season came during the 1985 campaign, in which the club won its first-ever AL East division title. The Blue Jays’ ERA that year was 3.29 — which helped lead to a franchise-record 99 wins.
Dave Stieb led the Toronto pitching staff that year with an American League best 2.48 ERA. Meanwhile, Jimmy Key — in his first season as a starter — posted a 14-6 record and a 3.00 ERA. Doyle Alexander and Jim Clancy recorded ERA’s of 3.45 and 3.78, giving the four primary Toronto starters a combined ERA of 3.10.
Out of the bullpen, Bill Caudill posted a 2.99 ERA in 67 appearances, while newly-acquired right-hander Tom Henke pitched to a 2.03 ERA.
Led by a 16-hit attack, the Blue Jays cruised to a 15-4 lopsided victory over the New York Yankees Wednesday night. Though none of the 16 hits was a home run, Toronto recorded nine doubles on the evening, matching a franchise record in the process.
Leadoff hitter(?) Matt Stairs collected a pair of doubles, as did Alex Rios and Frank Thomas. Meanwhile, Vernon Wells, Gregg Zaun and Lyle Overbay managed one apiece.
The only other time the Blue Jays have collected nine doubles in the franchise’s 31-year history came in 1993. On September 19 of that season, Toronto won its eighth straight contest, dispatching the Minnesota Twins, 10-0, at the Metrodome.
Pat Borders led the way with a pair of doubles. Meanwhile, seven other players notched a two-bagger as well. Those included: Devon White, Darnell Coles, Tony Fernandez, Paul Molitor, John Olerud, Roberto Alomar and Ed Sprague. Interestingly, that meant that Joe Carter was the only player in the starting lineup without a double in the game. Carter went 1-for-4 with a single in the contest.
And there you have it. Like it or not, Barry Bonds is the new home run king, having launched No. 756 off Nationals pitcher Mike Bascik last night. Without Bud Selig’s invention created to bring back fans following the 1994 work stoppage, the Toronto Blue Jays would never have faced Bonds and, thus, not contributed to the San Francisco slugger’s homer total. However, that hasn’t been the case, as the Blue Jays and Giants have squared off nine times since the adoption of Interleague play in 1997.
And the result? Bonds hit two homers against the Jays, including a game-tying, two-run shot off Josh Towers(No. 747) on June 11 of this year. His other homer occurred at the Rogers Centre (then SkyDome) on June 12, 2002. Already ahead 5-3 in the ninth, Bonds provided an insurance run with a solo homer off Cliff Politte(No. 589). As an aside, that three-game series between the Jays and Giants marked the first time back to Toronto for second baseman Jeff Kent, who was traded by the Blue Jays for David Cone in August of 1992.
In nine games overall, Bonds has gone 9-for-21 (.429) with a pair of homers, three RBIs, five runs scored and 11 walks against the Blue Jays in his career.
Why do I get the feeling that, should Bonds never hit another home run, the blame will fall on Josh Towers?
With Roger Clemens in town, let’s take a look at The Rocket’s best performances as a member of the Blue Jays back in 1997 & 98 …
August 25, 1998 — At home against the Kansas City Royals, Clemens tosses a complete-game, three-hit shutout during a 3-0 Toronto win. His 18 strikeouts on the day set a new Blue Jays franchise record. With the win, Clemens improves to 16-6 on the season, and is well on his way to capturing a second straight AL Cy Young award.
September 7, 1997 — Clemens improves his record to 21-5 with a complete-game, two-hit shutout against the Texas Rangers at SkyDome. The Rocket strikes out 14 batters, his second-highest total on the season. Clemens goes on to win his fourth Cy Young award, and his first as a Blue Jay.
July 12, 1997 — After allowing a single run in the first inning during his first game back to Fenway Park, Clemens shuts down the Red Sox for the remainder of the game, which includes a season-high 16 strikeouts — setting a Toronto franchise record. With the 3-1 victory over his former team, the right-hander improves his record to 14-3 on the year.
August 30, 1998 — The Minnesota Twins manage just two singles off Clemens during a 6-0 Toronto victory at SkyDome. Remarkably, it is the third straight complete-game shutout for The Rocket, who allowed just eight hits in 27.0 innings during that span.