2015 Toronto Blue Jays
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2015 Toronto Blue Jays / Franchise: Toronto Blue Jays / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: September 30, 2015, At Baltimore Orioles
Managed by John Gibbons
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays decided to go all in in an attempt to put an end to a twenty-two year postseason drought dating back to the 1993 World Series. The Blue Jays had led the AL East for a good part of the 2014 season, so General Manager Alex Anthopoulos figured he had a good core in place and just needed to build around it. His first move in the off-season was to offer a long-term contract to free agent C Russell Martin, a native of the Toronto metropolitan area, although he had grown up mainly around Montreal; next, he traded 3B Brett Lawrie, a perennial disappointment because of his inability to stay healthy, to the Oakland Athletics in return for All-Star 3B Josh Donaldson. With LF Melky Cabrera leaving as a free agent, he traded P J.A. Happ to the Seattle Mariners to obtain OF Michael Saunders. He then sent 1B Adam Lind, who now lacked a place to play, to the Milwaukee Brewers for P Marco Estrada, but lost closer Casey Janssen to free agency. The Blue Jays figured that with two young outfielders ready to contribute in Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey, a return to health by 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion and 2B Maicer Izturis, and the emergence of a crew of talented young pitchers led by Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Chad Jenkins and Daniel Norris, they had a lot of excellent new blood ready to help the team. Its core remained slugging RF Jose Bautista and SS Jose Reyes on the offensive side, and veteran starters R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, complemented by reliever Brett Cecil on the mound.
Spring training started on a very bad note however, as in one of the very first workouts, on February 25th, Michael Saunders stepped on a sprinkler and injured his knee. The initial prognosis was that he would be out for half of the season, although, that became more optimistic after surgery went well. On March 10th, however. it was Marcus Stroman's turn to suffer a knee injury, tearing a ligament during fielding drills. This time there was no question that the second-year pitcher, coming off an excellent 11-6, 3.65 rookie season, would be out for the year, leaving a huge hole in the starting rotation. A result of that injury is that two pitchers coming out of Class A ball, Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna, ended up making the team's opening day roster.
The Blue Jays started the regular season on a good note, as they defeated the New York Yankees, 6-1, on opening day on April 6th. Drew Hutchison was the opening day starting pitcher, and he gave up only a run on three hits in six innings to get the win. In the Jays' line-up that day were three youngsters, CF Pompey, LF Pillar and 2B Devon Travis, who was making his major league debut. Travis hit his first career homer in that game.
Pompey and P Andrew Albers were optioned to Buffalo on May 2nd; outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and right-handed pitcher Scott Copeland came up to Toronto. The club got the 3000th win in franchise history with a 7-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on May 8th. However, May was mostly characterized by injuries. Reyes went to the disabled list with a cracked rib; Bautista was forced to play at DH for an extended stretch because of a shoulder injury; Michael Saunders re-injured his knee shortly after returning to the line-up; back-up catcher Dioner Navarro went down with a hamstring tear and Devon Travis, fresh off being named the AL Rookie of the Month in April had a shoulder injury. Forced to play the likes of Carrera, Chris Colabello and Danny Valencia on a regular basis, the Jays struggled to keep their heads above water during the month. On May 26th, Donaldson, who had been the Jays' most productive hitter all season, had a night for the ages as he reached base in all of his plate appearances, thanks to four hits and a walk. He scored all five times and drove in four runs; the first came on a solo homer off John Danks in the 1st inning, and the other three on a walk-off homer off Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson in the bottom of the 9th. The 10-9 win marked the first time the Blue Jays had won three consecutive games all season, bringing them back to within three games of the division-leading Yankees, even though they were still four games below .500. Three days earlier, the Jays had been in danger of falling completely out of the race, as they were in last place, 5 1/2 games behind the division leaders, following a brutal stretch of 9 losses in 11 games. The winning streak continued, however, reaching 8 games on June 10th. Because the Yankees had also been winning almost every game during the period, the Jays only closed to withing 3 games of the division lead, but they were now in the thick of the wild card race. The winning had been built on some spectacular hitting, as the Jays outscored their opponents 57-21 during the 8 wins.
The Blue Jays made it 9 straight wins with another spectacular performance on June 12th: trailing the Boston Red Sox, 8-1, after 5 innings, they came back to win 13-10, largely on the strength of a nine-run inning in the 7th in which their first nine batters reached base. A solo home run by Russell Martin in extra innings the next day made it 10 in a row and on June 14th they tied a team record with their 11th consecutive win with a 13-5 beat-down of the Red Sox. This time it was 9th place hitter Ryan Goins, filling in for the injured Devon Travis, who did the most damage, with a double, a homer and 5 RBIs. The streak was snapped on June 15th when the New York Mets managed to stage a two-run rally with two outs in the 11th inning to steal a 4-3 win, but the Jays had given notice that they were for real. They moved to within one game of the divisional lead on a number of occasions, but were never able to climb on top of the bunched up division. They then slumped badly in the first half of July, going 3-9 from July 2nd until the All-Star break and falling to 4th place, 4 1/2 games back of the Yankees.
Jose Bautista moved into a tie for second place on the Jays' all-time home run list with a solo shot to left field on July 20th, giving the club a 7-1 victory over the Oakland A's. It was home run No. 223 for Bautista, tying him with Vernon Wells. With the trading deadline fast approaching, the Blue Jays knew that they had to make some moves, as the Yankees were pulling away from them ever faster. Given their excellent offense but shaky pitching, most observers thought they would try to land another starting pitcher or a closer, but on July 28th, Alex Anthopoulos surprised everyone with a blockbuster deal whose prize catch was SS Troy Tulowitzki. Also coming over from the Colorado Rockies was P LaTroy Hawkins, the oldest player on the major leagues, but who had shown he could still get batters out in what he had already announced was his last season. In return, the Jays were giving up their own shortstop, Jose Reyes, as well as three pitching prospects: Michael Castro, who had started the season in Toronto, Jeff Hoffman, their top pick in the 2014 amateur draft who had just started his professional career in May but was already giving indications that he would be a solid major league starter, and a longer shot in Class A starter Jesus Tinoco. In addition to Tulowitzki being an improvement over Reyes with the bat, given his greater power, he was also a better fielder, as the Jays were concerned with Reyes's declining defensive range. Two days later, on July 30th, the Blue Jays made another splash by acquiring the most-wanted pitcher on the market, Detroit Tigers ace David Price. They gave up three pitching prospects in return, Daniel Norris, who had spent the month of April in the major league starting rotation, Matt Boyd, who had made a couple of starts for the Jays in July but had been hit hard, and Jairo Labourt, fresh off an appearance in the 2015 Futures Game. The two trades sent a clear message that the Blue Jays were going all in in order to end their postseason drought. The Jays then finished their shopping spree by trading for OF Ben Revere from the Philadelphia Phillies the following day.
Both Tulowitzki and Price had great first games for the Blue Jays. Tulowitzki went 3 for 5 with a homer and a pair of doubles on July 29th to lead the Jays to an 8-2 win over the Phillies, while Price struck out 11 batters over 8 innings in defeating the Minnesota Twins on August 3rd. The 11 Ks were the most ever by a Jays pitcher in his first game for the team. Lowe and Revere did not do so well when they first put on a Jays uniform on August 2nd, however, as Revere went 0 for 5 as the leadoff hitter and Lowe was charged with a blown save and the loss in a 7-6 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals. Still, the trades had their intended immediate effect, as that loss was the Jays' lone one in their first nine games after trading for Tulowitzki.
Riding a huge high, the Blue Jays went to New York on August 7th to start a three-game series that would be key in determining whether they still had a chance to win a division title. They beat the Yankees in the opening game, 2-1, thanks to a great pitching performance by R.A. Dickey and a 10th-inning game-winning homer by Bautista. They then won the second game, 6-0, with Price muzzling the Yankees on the mound and 1B Justin Smoak's grand slam by, the first ever by a Jays player in the Bronx, providing the offence. The Jays made another trade that day, albeit a minor one, getting IF Cliff Pennington from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor leaguer Dawel Lugo. They completed the sweep on August 9th with a 2-0 win behind the pitching of Marco Estrada and solo homers by Donaldson and Bautista. They were now back to within 1 1/2 games of the Yankees, and were the first team to shut them out in back-to-back games since May of 1999, a major league record. On August 11th, they made it 9 straight wins and 12 in 13 games when they defeated the A's, 4-2. This time, it was Hutchison who was masterful on the mound, and combined with a Yankees loss, it put the Jays within half a game of first place. With another win over Oakland, 10-3, on August 13th, on a day the Yankees' lost their fifth straight, the Blue Jays moved into first place by half a game. Once again, they used the home run ball, this time three-run shots by Colabello and Smoak, making it the 23rd game in the 24 they had played since the All-Star Game in which they had homered. Dickey picked up the win, his fourth straight winning start after a tough first half in which he had gone only 3-10, 4.87. With a 4-2 win over the A's the next day, they matched their all-time best winning streak of 11 games for the second time that season, making the Jays the first team since the 1954 Cleveland Indians to have two winning streaks of at least 11 games in the same season. Mark Buehrle improved to 13-5 while Ryan Goins kept the homer streak going with a three-run shot.
It was now the Jays' turn to host the Yankees, but in the first game of a week-end series at the Rogers Centre on August 14th, the Bronx Bombers ended the Jays' winning streak with a 4-3 win that put them back in first place by half a game. A three-run pinch homer by Carlos Beltran off Aaron Sanchez in the 8th was the key blow, nullifying another excellent performance by a starting pitcher, this time Price. Masahiro Tanaka then came up with a great performance in the second game, pitching his first complete game in over a year, in taking a 4-1 win for the Yankees. However, the Jays managed to take the final game, 3-1, on August 16th, thanks to a two-run homer by Bautista and another strong start by Hutchison, as New York left the series with a half-game lead. The Jays then made a surprise move after the series, sending Hutchison down to AAA in spite of his 12-2 record. The Yankees managed to stay in front for a few days, but the Blue Jays once again flashed the lumber in a three-game series at Anaheim Stadium on August 21-23. With Donaldson collecting 9 RBIs over the first two games to become the first major league batter to 100 RBIs that season, and Encarnacion going 4-for-4 with a homer and 4 RBIs in the third, extending his hitting streak to 19 games, the Jays swept the series over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by scores of 9-2, 15-3 and 12-5 and finished the week-end a half-game ahead of New York. the 36 runs scored in a three-game series were a team record.
On August 26th, the Blue Jays took a two-game lead in first place for the first time of the season when they defeated the Texas Rangers, 12-4. David Price was a winner on his 30th birthday while they Jays hit three more homers, by Smoak, Pillar and Encarnacion, the latter a grand slam that extended his hitting streak to 21 games. It was already the 20th time the Jays had scored 10 or more runs in a game that season, setting a new team mark. More marks fell on August 29th, when Hutchison returned from his brief minor league sojourn, as Encarnacion hit three homers and tied a team record dating back to 1977 with 9 RBIs in a 15-1 demolition of the Detroit Tigers. One of the long balls was his third grand slam of the year, which also tied a team mark. He also extended his hitting streak to 24 games, making it the longest in the American League since 2012. He homered again the next day in a 9-2 win over the Tigers, setting a new team record for most RBIs in a month with 35, while the Jays matched their team record for most wins in a month with 21.
The Jays took a big step towards clinching a division title when they won the first three games of a four-game week-end series against the Yankees in New York on September 11-12. In the first game, Donaldson and Smoak set the tone with two-run homers off rookie Luis Severino in the 1st inning as the Jays took a 5-0 lead and never looked back. The Jays then swept a doubleheader the next day. The opener was a nail-biter, as the two teams combined for seven homers in regulation innings, including a pair by Bautista, but the game was decided in the 11th when Yankee relievers Bryan Mitchell and Chasen Shreve combined to issue five walks and a hit batsman and the Jays scored four runs on only one run to win, 9-5. In the nitecap, Marcus Stroman made his first appearance since his spring training knee injury and was credited with a 10-7 win; the Jays scored 6 runs in the 2nd to chase Ivan Nova and New York was never able to come back in spite of a pair of three-run homers by Brett Gardner. On September 21st, the jays hosted the Yankees a final time at the Rogers Centre, going into the series with a 2 1/2 game lead. David price pitched 7 shutout innings that day, and the Jays came one step closer to clinching a division title with a 4-2 win; Price was now 8-1, 1.95 in his first ten starts as a Blue Jay. The Jays lost the second game of the series, 6-4, but another strong performance by Stroman and a three-run homer by Martin gave the Jays a 4-0 win in the deciding game on September 23rd, as time was beginning to run out for the Yankees. The division title clincher came in the first game of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on September 30th. In typical fashion, the Jays built a large early lead and won in a rout, 15-2, with Stroman winning his fourth straight start with another strong performance, Bautista, Encarnacion and Smoak homering and Ryan Goins getting 5 hits. The Jays then lost the now meaningless second game.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin
- AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Josh Donaldson (3B)
- 2015 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Roberto Osuna (RP)
- 2022 Toronto Blue Jays Media Guide, pg. 256
- Ted Berg: "17 awesome things about the Toronto Blue Jays", For The Win, USA Today Sports, September 30, 2015. 
- Gregor Chisholm: "15 for '15: Toronto's big Deadline spurs revival: Blue Jays' impact moves helped them make it to postseason for first time since 1993", mlb.com, December 28, 2015. 
- Richard Justice: "Blue Jays coming together at perfect time: Built piece by piece, club surging into weekend showdown vs. AL East-leading Yankees", mlb.com, August 6, 2015. 
- Cathal Kelly: "Is the Blue Jays’ season over before it has even begun?", The Globe and Mail, March 10, 2015. 
- Joe Lemire: "Blue Jays' way: Wait for 'bomb to drop' at plate, hope for best on mound", USA Today Sports, June 16, 2015. 
- Bob Nightengale: "After 22-year playoff drought, Blue Jays know it's time to pay the Price", USA Today Sports, July 30, 2015. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Red-hot Blue Jays enjoying gifts of prosperity in playoff drive", USA Today Sports, August 18, 2015. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Tenacious Blue Jays built to thrive in must-win situations", USA Today Sports, October 22, 2015. 
- Tracy Ringolsby: "Tulo deal could help Blue Jays to next level", mlb.com, July 28, 2015.