The Week Ahead: Jays, Mets making their moves

The Week Ahead: Jays, Mets making their moves

They loaded up at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and changed the baseball conversation. And as we get deeper into August, they're loading up on victories and could soon be changing the standings.

The Week Ahead begins with a look north of the border. It's impossible to ignore what the new-look Toronto Blue Jays are doing with their stacked lineup and improved pitching, and with an eight-game winning streak alive and kicking into Monday, the main question is how anyone is going to slow them down.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos pushed in all the chips by July 31 and now the Jays' batting order, which begins with new acquisition Troy Tulowitzki and never seems to end for opposing pitchers, is doing whatever it takes to support a staff that is now led by the other huge-name Deadline acquisition, left-hander David Price. Recent additions Ben Revere, LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe haven't hurt, either.

"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," slugger Jose Bautista said. "We're a better team overall."

The timing couldn't be better. The surging Jays, who are only 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East, get a day off on Monday before heading home to Rogers Centre for six games: three vs. Oakland and three vs. those Yankees. New York, meanwhile, must travel to Cleveland for three before crossing the border.

Speaking of New York, how about those Mets? Yeah, they had a rough weekend against the Rays, losing on Saturday and Sunday, but they were hot before that, and a quick look at the National League East shows they're right where they want to be: 1 1/2 games ahead of the heavily favored Nationals in the division race and with an advantageous seven days ahead on the schedule, if they can make the most of it.

Terry Collins' club has ridden its dominant young starting pitching and Trade Deadline-enhanced offense to a resurgence in the standings, but it has done a lot better at home (38-18 at Citi Field) than on the road (21-34 away from Queens). This week they're at home, with four against the Rockies and three against the Pirates. The Nationals have a tougher week's worth of work, with three against the Dodgers in Los Angeles and four against the Giants in San Francisco.

Sure, the Nationals have Stephen Strasburg back, and that helps. Sure, they might soon have Denard Span back, too. But the Mets could get Michael Cuddyer back this week from a bone bruise in his left knee, and third baseman David Wright will soon go out on a rehab assignment in his comeback from spinal stenosis. Add recent callup Michael Conforto and Trade Deadline pieces Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard, and there is a lot to like for the Mets.

"It's been great to see all this come together," Collins said recently. "We told our fan base for four years to have some patience, that it's coming. You keep running our pitching out there, and it has to get your attention.

"We were hoping we could get some offense going, that David Wright would get back, or [catcher] Travis d'Arnaud [activated from an injury on July 31] would be back and help us get some offense. [General manager] Sandy [Alderson] went out and got us some pieces that have made a big difference."

The Mets might have made things confusing in the East, but the NL Central is shaping up to be another logjam of postseason-contending teams. The Cardinals are cruising along with a 5 1/2-game division lead and the best record in baseball, but the Pirates and Cubs are alive and well in the Wild Card standings. Both would make it to October if the season ended today.

All three of these clubs are off on Monday, but the Pirates will travel to Busch Stadium on Tuesday to begin a three-game set against the Cardinals that might be the most intriguing in the big leagues over the next seven days. Then the Pirates have to face the Mets in New York.

The Cubs will face the Brewers at home for a three-pack before heading to the South Side for a renewal of the Interleague rivalry against the White Sox.

Elsewhere around the Majors, the tightest division race as of Monday morning is occurring in the wild AL West, where the Astros are clinging to a half-game advantage over the Angels. This week, at least, the schedule seems to favor Houston. On paper.

The Astros not only get to stay home for a quick two-game set against the Giants before playing three against the Tigers, they also get off-days on Monday and Thursday. The Angels have what seems like a greater challenge. They will hit the highway for the entire seven days, beginning with a three-game set against the White Sox in Chicago and concluding with a huge four-game series against the team with the best record in the AL, the Royals, in Kansas City.

The Angels will hope to keep the momentum of Sunday's walk-off win going while hoping that third baseman David Freese (fractured right index finger) heads out for a rehab assignment as early as this week.

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.