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The Blue Jays’ monster month and the 2011 Brewers

I am mesmerized by these Toronto Blue Jays. On July 28th, the Jays fell to 50-51 and eight games behind the Yankees in the American League East. After thumping Detroit 9-2 Sunday to complete a three-game sweep in which the scored an absurd 29 runs, the Jays are now 24-5 since dropping below .500. They are the most dominant team in baseball right now, and if they hold on to their 1.5-game division lead, they will be my favorite for the World Series. I assume that will be a popular choice.

The Blue Jays have been winning in every way imaginable. They’re a threat to score double-digit runs every game. Their pitching, bolstered by the David Price acquisition, has been fantastic, having recorded a 2.71 ERA with 198 strikeouts and 53 walks (3.7 K/BB) over 262 innings. The few times their offense has been stymied through six or seven innings, opposing pitchers have been forced to go through that murderer’s row of Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion one last time. They’re scoring 6.4 runs and allowing just 3.1 per game. It’s as pure domination as is possible in the best baseball league in the world.

The Blue Jays have been very reminiscent of the 2011 Brewers. They’re a squad making big moves to hit a rare competitive window before it closes, with preseason moves like the Russell Martin signing and of course the big trades to acquire Price and Tulowitzki at the deadline. They have obviously had big-time talent since the start of the season, but major holes in the roster led to inconsistency until trade season allowed them to patch the team up. Unlike the Jays, those Brewers made most of their moves in the offseason, but early injuries to Zack Greinke and Takashi Saito effectively turned them to midseason acquisitions.

It was the pitching staff, complete with the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez at the All-Star Break, that set up the Brewers’ incredible 27-5 run from July 26th through August 28th. It was this run that won the Brewers their first division title in 29 years, as Milwaukee went from tied for the division lead with St. Louis to up eight games by the streak’s conclusion. The pitchers allowed just a 2.62 ERA in 289 innings and struck out 222 against 70 walks. The bullpen in particular was lights out, as Kameron Loe, John Axford, Takashi Saito, and Francisco Rodriguez all posted ERAs under 3.00 in August and combined to allow just nine runs in 41.1 innings (1.95 ERA) with 42 strikeouts and just 11 walks.

The Blue Jays will match the Brewers’ 27-5 stretch if they can win either their next three games or seven of their next eight. As white hot as they’ve been, you’d have to assume the Jays are roughly an .800 winning percentage team to give even odds on either of those happening, and I’m not ready to call this Blue Jays team a 128 or 129-win level squad. Consider that: the Blue Jays have been playing at a superhuman level for a month and change, and they still have a formidable task in front of them to match what the 2011 Brewers did over the 32-game stretch that locked them into the National League Central lead.

During those games in August as we got into the meat of the streak, the Brewers looked as invincible as I’ve ever seen a baseball team. Never did I have more confidence that I would turn on and the game would be a victory, whether I was tuning in from the first pitch or catching the crew down a few in the middle innings. It was like having the confidence of watching a CC Sabathia game during his ravaging of the National League in 2008, but on a daily basis. It’s a magic I’m not sure another Brewers team will capture for another decade, if not longer.¬†They had a special energy then, perhaps no more visible than when they ruined the Pirates season with a three-game sweep they finished August 14th at Miller Park, capped off by Nyjer Morgan with the huge flourish on a walk-off sacrifice.

I feel that same energy as I listen to the Rogers Centre crowd erupt as the Jays launch homer after homer into the bleachers. There’s nothing quite like a streak like the one the Blue Jays are in the midst of right now, and Blue Jays fans should savor the feeling. You never know when it will be back again.

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