Blue Jays might be MLB’s best at beating the best

It was a checkered first quarter of the season for the Blue Jays, who ended their first 40 games on Sunday with a 6-5 walkoff win over the Atlanta Braves. A win over the National League East leaders improved his record to 25-15, with the New York Yankees coming to town for four games beginning Monday.

A very promising trend early in the second quarter of the game is that the Jays performed particularly well despite Sunday’s chaotic game against the top teams.

Not counting opening day when everyone is in first place, the Jays beat the division leaders 8-1 and won all three series.

First it was the Tampa Bay Rays, who played 13-0 in mid-April and set a new record. The Jays defeated her twice before losing the series finale.

Next came the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were admittedly the best in the struggling National League Central, a division so bad they led by a game and a half, lost nine of ten games and were still in first place. There were a lot of reflections and more smoke in the game, but there they were with the second-best record in the NL over a month into the season when the Jays came in and overwhelmed them for a three-game win with a total score of 22- 3.

This weekend it was Atlanta at the Rogers Centre, with the Netherlands’ best record and an amazing 15-4 record. These Bravos are no night owls, having won five straight division titles and the 2021 World Series. But the Jays shut them out on Friday, leaving them nothing more than a two-run home run by Marcell Ozuna on Saturday before the dog breakfast of a competition where each team appeared to have given their best several times to hand over to the other began on Sunday afternoon .

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But no matter how. A win is a win is a win, and the Jays have won 12 of their last 19 and won three of their last six series (though they’ve also won twice). They have a pace of 101 wins.

That puts them in third place in the AL East with the league’s third-best record, two games behind second-placed Baltimore Orioles — whom they will face for the first time this season on Friday night — and six games behind MLB-best Rays.

“We have faith in our starters, faith in our bullpen and faith in our bats,” said Walkoff hero Danny Jansen, who clinched the tie and won with two outs in the ninth round. “We think we can get along with anyone.”

Results against the Rays and Braves – and yes, the Pirates, who were 20-12 before the Jays stole their lunch money – certainly suggest that’s true.

“I think it just shows how good we are,” said the Jays’ Trevor Richards, who provided two innings of shutout relief on Sunday. “We can compete with anyone in the league and we will. Look at our lineup, look at our pitching team, it’s all there.”

That baton kept Atlanta’s Sean Murphy, who started the series at the top of the NL with a 1,040 on-base-plus-slugging mark, with eight at-bats and just one ball hit from the infield to zero. They kept Ronald Acuña Jr., who now leads the NL in the OPS with 1.014, on three singles and a solo home run. Together, the two rode through three games in one run and scored just two goals – one of which was the result of an error.

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The Jays seem very matter-of-fact about their success when facing division leaders, which I think is exactly what you want. It would be odd if they were surprised at how well they’ve done considering what they’re aiming to achieve this year.

“We want to win every game,” Jansen said, “and we believe we can do that with the racquets and the staff we have.”

“I think the guys know,” added manager John Schneider, “that they’re at a point as a group and in their careers where it’s time to win.” And so far they’ve responded really well.”

Your schedule for the next month is incredibly tough. They’ve got the Rays, Orioles and Yankees, as well as the Minnesota Twins (now number one in the AL Central), the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers, the defending champion Houston Astros and the New York Mets with a half-billion dollar payroll on the file through May 20 June.

“To get where this team wants to go,” said leadoff man George Springer, who hit his fifth home run of the season on Sunday, “it has to be up against some really, really good teams.”

And those really, really good teams have to get through them. So far, the Jays have come out victorious in these encounters far more often.

Mike Wilner is a Toronto-based baseball columnist for the star and host of the baseball podcast Deep Left Field. Follow him on Twitter: @wilnerness

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