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Plenty of surprises in Blue Jay tool box


Plenty of surprises in Blue Jay tool box
Some words just go together, provide a perfect fit.

Like reliable and Roy Halladay. Overrated and the San Jose Sharks. Controversial and A-Rod.

And, of course, surprising and Toronto Blue Jays . The descriptor seems in these first few weeks of the season to have become welded to the franchise.

As time wears on, the surprise may well come when they descend (it is inevitable) into a losing streak. When the injuries they have survived so far catch up to them like a pack of pursuing wolves.

Meantime, the Blue Jays continue to supply their fans with pleasant surprises on a more or less daily basis. Certainly they are delivering on a series-by-series level, yesterday getting their first sweep of 2009, three straight over the Baltimore Orioles. The wrap-up featured another solid outing from Canadian starter Scott Richmond, who struggled to make the team out of spring training, but now sits at 4-0.

"Pleasantly surprised is a great way to put it," he said of his latest W from the 4-3 outcome. He might have been describing the team's fortunes in general.

The Jays have now won seven of their eight series, with a little two-gamer at home to Cleveland tonight and tomorrow before heading off on a quick five games on the west coast vs. the Angels and Athletics.

"We're having a blast," said catcher Rod Barajas, after Richmond had sung his praises for how he has dealt with the comings and goings of the racked-up pitching staff and its several raw recruits. "I think last year we had fun. We were nowhere near the level we're at this year - especially offensively.

"Since Day 1, I've loved these guys. It's a great group of guys. Everybody gets along. The having fun part wasn't the issue here. We enjoyed coming to the field every single day. Now that we're swinging the bats, it makes the fun part more fun. This is what we wanted. This is what we expected."

Manager Cito Gaston allowed that he was not surprised either by what's happening on the field and in the won-lost column.

"I always expect the best out of my players and myself," Gaston said. Not that his, or anyone's, expectations are always met and he knows that, too.

The Orioles represented the Jays' first meeting with an AL East rival, but based on this series, at least, it would be extremely surprising (that word again) if they manage to climb back into the divisional race, even if it is still only the start of May.

Following the western swing, the Jays are home to the Yankees for three games - a better test. In total, 12 of Toronto's next 26 in May are against their division. Reminder: Since the wild card was created in 1994, 10 of the 15 in the American League have come from the East.

The Jays went into yesterday's play sustaining a stunning level of excellence - first in the AL in runs scored, average, total bases and slugging percentage.

Notably they were also first in taking walks and, in a negative sense (who's perfect, eh?) grounding into double plays and runners left on base.

They were also first in fielding percentage, a fact that was underlined by a terrific diving stab by third baseman Scott Rolen on a liner hit by Brian Roberts in the seventh inning. That play, in its way, figured as crucially in the outcome as Richmond's pitching, another clean outing from the bullpen and timely hitting led by Alex Rios and his double and home run.

The Jays are going so well that a fan among the modest (for a Sunday, with the roof closed) crowd of 20,418 decided to pitch a little woo at the ballpark yesterday.

His marriage proposal appeared on the big screen in the outfield and his intended, in turn, appeared to accept it. If the Jays were playing awful he might have thought twice about his game plan and, who knows, she might have struck him out.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 4, 2009

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