NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays didn't just rise to the occasion this weekend in New York, they completely blew away the competition in a three-game sweep that suddenly has the American League East completely up for grabs.
Toronto won Sunday's finale, 2-0, to pull within 1 1/2 games of first place. The Blue Jays dominated the series, outscoring the Yankees, 10-1, over the course of three games. The scores weren't lopsided by any means, but the way the Blue Jays won each contest sent an emphatic message to the rest of the AL.
The Blue Jays are arguably the hottest team in baseball, after reeling off eight consecutive wins. Less than two weeks ago, Toronto found itself one game under .500, eight games back in the division and struggling to stay afloat. Now, the Blue Jays can seemingly do no wrong -- with the crispest stretch of baseball Toronto fans have seen in a very, very long time.
"I just think we're a better team, right now, than probably [on] Day 1," said Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who had four hits and a pair of homers in the series. "Not just personnel, but overall. We have an understanding of what we're going to do, what's asked of certain guys in their roles. I just think we're a better team than we were [on] Day 1."
The Blue Jays find themselves nine games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 1, 2014. But the differences between those two teams couldn't be any more stark. Last season, the team was noticeably fading -- and the lack of moves made at the Deadline did little to curry favor inside the clubhouse.
This season, Toronto addressed each of its weaknesses by acquiring No. 1 starter David Price, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, left fielder Ben Revere and a pair of bullpen arms in LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe. There are still plenty of games left to play. But the way things are going right now, it's rather difficult to find any type of major flaw on the roster.
"When you get five really talented Major Leaguers that are great players -- they've been in All-Star Games, playoffs -- and they come to us all at the same time at the Trade Deadline, and we already had a good team, it's pretty obvious that we're going to feel better about ourselves," said Jose Bautista, who also homered on Sunday afternoon. "We're a better team overall."
Round 1 in the pennant race went to the Blue Jays, but the battle between New York and Toronto is far from over. The two teams will meet again next weekend and they have 10 games remaining against each other before the end of the campaign.
One series does not a season make. But it's clear there's a renewed sense of belief with the Blue Jays' team -- in the clubhouse, on the field and in the stands.
"It's live in the clubhouse, there's a lot of energy in here, a lot of good energy," said Hawkins, who escaped a two runners-on situation in the seventh to help preserve Sunday's victory. "I think that translates onto the field and everywhere else. That's what I can see. We got some young guys and a lot of energy, and it helps keep me energized, also."