Blue Jays sweep, take 10th straight win
Toronto has sights set on American League Wild Card berth
CHICAGO -- After Tuesday night's 8-2 Blue Jays win to sweep the day-night doubleheader against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, Toronto has a 10-game winning streak, perhaps the best all-around pitching staff in baseball and some of the hottest hitters around.
Yes, this Blue Jays club is very much for real and very much vying for the American League Wild Card spot.
Back when the winning streak started, on Aug. 30, the Blue Jays were in fourth place in the AL East, a distant 14 1/2 games out of first and even farther out in the AL Wild Card standings.
Now, however, Toronto is seven games behind Boston, which lost to first-place Tampa Bay, in the AL Wild Card race.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston shed some light on what has spurred his club's tremendous effort.
"I think the only difference ... is before when we had guys in scoring position, we were having a tough time getting them in," Gaston said. "We still don't get them in all the time, but that's going to happen. That's the difference I see. Guys have a little more confidence."
Jesse Litsch (11-8) followed the example A.J. Burnett set in Game 1, scattering six hits over seven innings and allowing just the two White Sox runs.
Litsch is 3-1 with a minuscule 1.26 ERA over his last five starts. All of his outings since his return from a short Minor League stint have been quality starts.
"I just tried to use all my pitches," Litsch said. "My cutter was big today. I started out slow with it. I was just keeping them off balance -- in, out -- throwing changeups and curveballs, and trying to work all my pitches to different sides of the plate and making them get themselves out."
And once again, the bullpen was superb. Jesse Carlson and Brandon League pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth, respectively.
"We made some mistakes," Gaston said. "But pretty much when we needed a hit, we've been getting it. Things have been going our way."
Game 2 commenced much differently than the matinee, in which neither team scored through the first five innings. This time, though, Marco Scutaro led off the game with a home run, setting the pace.
The Toronto offense had a chance to flex its muscle a bit more, too, particularly in a four-run fifth inning. The first four batters reached base and scored. That included Scott Rolen's two-run homer that gave the Jays the lead.
The Blue Jays added a run in each of the final three innings to put the game away.
"I wasn't where I wanted to be in the first game," said Scott Rolen, who went 0-for4 in Game 1. "I felt a lot better in the second game. My timing was a little better.
"We're still not where we want to be. We're playing well now and doing everything we can. Our preference would have been to have it in our hands a little more than it is. It still has a lot to do with the other two teams who are in front of us. We have to keep winning and doing what we can do.
"We put ourselves in a tough position in the five months preceding this one. But that doesn't influence what we're trying to do. We go on the field and compete every day, and good things are happening for us."
Gaston said some changes are in store for the starting rotation with another win on Wednesday or Thursday. An all-important four-game series with the Red Sox awaits the Blue Jays this weekend, and Burnett and Litsch may find themselves pitching another doubleheader on Saturday.
"That's something I would definitely be happy with," Litsch said. "I've done it before, not necessarily at the pro level. But in college, stuff like that. It's something to look forward to, and it keeps you anxious. You want to get back out there as quick as possible, and that's a day quicker.
"We're here to compete. We always think we got a chance. We're right there. We'd like to be closer, but the first half dictated where we are right now, so we're trying to get back into the hunt."
David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.