The Blue Jays have had an incredible month of May - no two ways about it. With two games still to play, they are 20-8 including a nine-game win streak that came to an end at the hands of the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night at the Rogers Centre in 10 innings. If they win the last two games in May against KC, they will close out the month at 22-8. A year ago only four teams had a singular month better than that, three in the American League and one in the National League. Three of the four made the post-season and the other, the Texas Rangers, made it to the knockout tie-breaker and lost out in Game 163.
The Tampa Bay Rays were the best going 21-5 in June, while the Cleveland Indians were a scorching 21-6 in a pressure-packed September run. The Rangers were 20-7 in August. The Blue Jays' best month in 2013 was June where they finished 17-9, including an 11-game win streak. but they quickly faded after that. The Dodgers actually put together the most incredible short-term run on the way to winning the NL West. On June 20, they were sitting 12 games below .500 and there was talk skipper Don Mattingly was on the verge of being fired. Then, almost coincidentally with the arrival of Yasiel Puig , they went 8-1 to close out June, followed by a League best 20-6 in July and 23-6 in August. That in total is a fabulous 51-13 run that led them to finish the campaign at 90-72.
I'm not saying one 20-win month guarantees you a playoff spot. Injuries can undermine all that momentum, but one huge month can provide a team with an incredible boost of confidence and provide a bit of a cushion for the inevitable cold spells as the season unwinds.
Here's something else. I know the season is only one-third over, but I can't remember the last time the Blue Jays had contenders for four major awards. Edwin Encarnacion for MVP, Mark Buehrle for Cy Young, Melky Cabrera for Comeback Player of the Year and, possibly, Casey Janssen for Fireman of the Year ( 8-for-9 in save opportunities, so far) and, if Edwin weren't my pick for MVP, Jose Bautista would be right there, too. A lot can change over the course of the final fourth months of the season, but you can't ignore all of the positives coming out of the Blue Jays' camp after all those years wandering in the wilderness.
- There has been plenty of talk about the Blue Jays trying to pry right hander Jeff Samardzija loose from the Chicago Cubs to shore up the rotation and possibly push the Blue Jays over the top. Well, Alex Anthopoulos made it pretty clear on Thursday, the Blue Jays wouldn't be making any trades until July at the earliest and could wait up until the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. This won't really make any difference as far as possible dealings with the Cubbies go this season, but in their entire 37-plus years history, the Blue Jays have only made six trades with the Cubs. Only one really included a significant name player from a Blue Jays' standpoint. On December 10, 2001, Gord Ash, embarking on his final season as Jays GM, dealt shortstop Alex Gonzalez to the Cubs for lefty reliever Felix Heredia and a player to be named later, who turned out to be 3B/SS prospect Jim Deschaine who never made it to the Majors. Heredia only spent one season with the Jays before leaving as a free agent. Alex spent two-plus years with Chicago and even went to the playoffs with them in 2003, the year of the " Bartman" catch down the left-field line, that helped the then Florida Marlins rally to win that NLCS in seven games and ultimately go on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. Some Blue Jays fans believe George Bell was dealt to the Cubs. Not so, as he left the Jays and signed with the Cubbies as a free agent on December 6, 1990. On March 30, 1992 Bell was swapped across town to the White Sox for reliever Ken Patterson and, yes, Sammy Sosa who would go on to become a tainted legend with the Cubs. That is to this day considered to be the worst trade in White Sox history. Outside of teams that have never won the World Series, the Cubs have the worst Fall Classic legacy. They are 2-8 all-time and, since winning their last World Series over the Detroit Tigers in 1908, they have won only one playoff series since when they edged the Atlanta Braves in a five-game NLDS in 2003. They dropped seven-straight World Series appearances between 1910 and 1945 and their all-time playoff win-loss record is 27-54.
If that's not enough, they have the worst record in the Majors this season at 19-32 and are sitting in last place in the NL Central 11-and-a-half games back of the Milwaukee Brewers and the season isn't even two months old yet.
- Friday night at Dodger Stadium, Josh Beckett will be the latest to try and equal a record that most feel can never possibly be broken. Beckett will have the chance to throw a second-straight no-hitter when the Dodgers host Francisco Liriano and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds made history within a four-day span in June of 1938. On June 11, the 23-year-old lefty, in his first full season in the Majors, pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Braves, then known as the Bees. It was the first no-hitter by a lefty since 1931. Four days later at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Vander Meer was the Reds' starting pitcher in the first night game ever in New York in front of a sellout crowd of 48,000. "Vandy" was outstanding again. He almost lost it in the ninth when he walked the bases loaded with one out, but he got a force out at the plate for the second out and then got Leo Durocher to fly out to end the game. Though he was a four-time All-Star and was one of a handful of pitchers to lead his league in strikeouts three years in a row, he finished with a 119-121 record and a 3.44 ERA with 29 career shutouts, He also has the ever-lasting fame that goes with back-to-back no-hitters. Josh Beckett gets his shot at immortality on Friday night.