This is what the Toronto Blue Jays had more in mind when the 2013 Major League Baseball season got underway.
It has just taken them about six weeks or so to get there.
The hitting is starting to appear with more regularity, the defensive miscues are being kept to a minimum, and R.A. Dickey is finally showing the poise and confidence that led to his being the best pitcher in the National League last season with the New York Mets.
“We’ve been playing better baseball,” said Dickey, the knuckleballer who paced the Blue Jays to a 10-6 mauling of the San Francisco Giants at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night. “I mean outside of a couple plays tonight I felt like we were a pretty good baseball team. We pitched well, we played pretty good defence, we hit with runners in scoring position, we got a lot of big two out hits. We did a lot of good things tonight.
“And that’s what we’re seeing more and more of over the course of the last , probably, week and a half to two weeks. And I certainly think it can be a jumping off point for us. We’ve tried to take the mentality of just win today, don’t try to get eight games back in one night. And that’s what we’re going to try to stick with going forward.”
The Blue Jays still have a ton of work to do, make no mistake.
Although they’ve extended their modest winning streak to three games to equal their season high with the victory over the defending World Series champion, the 16-24 Blue Jays still remain mired in last place in the American League East, 9.5 games back of the New York Yankees.
And nobody in the division, apart from the Boston Red Sox, who have lost eight of their last 10 games, appear ready to go on any sort of a prolonged slump that would make life just a bit easier on the Toronto side.
For the Blue Jays, who entered the game near the bottom of the barrel in most offensive statistical categories, their bats are finally starting to show some life.
The Blue Jays rapped out a season-high 18 hits against the Giants and have now totaled 38 hits over the course of the three game win streak where Toronto has hit a collective .349 and averaged 8.3 runs per game.
“We’ve got some guys who can hit, that’s for sure,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We’ve been kind of waiting for that. I’ve think I’ve said over and over, we haven’t had many games in a row where we’ve been kind of breaking loose like that. It’s in there and we’re starting to see it.”
Tuesday’s hitting barrage was led by Melky Cabrera, who went 4-or-5 in the game. The outfielder has now hit safely in nine of his last 11 contests, raising his batting average to a team-high .278 in the process.
Third baseman Brett Lawrie went 3-for-5 with two doubles, his three hits marking a season best.
Before the game, Cabrera received his World Series ring from Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Cabrera played for the Giants for the first half of last season before getting suspended for 50 games after testing positive for the use of performance enhancing drugs.
The Dominican native did not play for the Giants again after that and he joined the Blue Jays in the off-season as a free agent.
“He got a chance to talk to Bochy before the game when he gave him the ring,” Cabrera said, his words being translated by third base coach Luis Rivera. “He said he told him that he knew he contributed for that team to win and was a big part of that team making it to the World Series. People make mistakes, just continue to play and move on.”
As for Dickey, it was a solid outing where he struck out a season-high 10 batters and limited the Giants to just two runs off six hits over six innings of work. He is now 3-5 on the season.
Dickey’s knuckleball was very active, especially early in the game, but he was able to keep his walks (2) to a minimum. A six-run Toronto outburst in the first inning meant he was able to throw more fastballs than usual to Henry Blanco, who has become his personal catcher.
“For the most part, the way that I work and the way that I’ve always worked ...is I call my own game from the mound,” Dickey said. “Before I get the ball back he [Blanco] knows what to put down. And of course I can’t tell you how I do that. But in that vein, I feel like the more knuckleballs I throw usually the better it gets.
“I threw a lot of fastballs, I play to the scoreboard. That’s one of the things Charlie Hough taught me. He said play the scoreboard, if you’ve got a big lead don’t stay out there and throw ball one, ball two with your knuckleball if it’s not working, go ahead and get a hit. And so I threw a few more tonight.”