TORONTO -- Don't look now, but the Blue Jays are suddenly red hot and surging up the standings of the American League East.
Toronto closed to within 2 1/2 games of Boston, in a virtual tie with Baltimore for first place, with a 5-2 victory over the Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park. The Blue Jays have now won nine of their past 11 and 11 of 14 since May 19 to climb back into the race.
Toronto's strong run has led to four consecutive series victories, and just like that, the last-place team has moved up to third in the division. For the first stretch this season, Toronto is finally living up to the hype.
"In this clubhouse, we knew it was going to come," said R.A. Dickey, who allowed one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings in the win. "And we feel like we can play better. I felt like tonight was a glimpse of what I can do. I walked five guys, I could have been a lot better, and there are a lot of guys in here who can feel like they can be a lot better.
"We knew it was going to be a matter of time. But that being said, we can't let up off the gas. This division is really difficult. Anybody on any given day is going to kick you in the teeth in this division, so we have to keep the gas pedal down."
Toronto has been led by its starting rotation all year, but it's the lineup that has helped fuel the recent turnaround. The Blue Jays still aren't producing the number of runs that were expected this season, but there have been monumental gains lately that gave gone a long way.
The Blue Jays averaged four runs per game from the start of the season until May 18. Since that time, Toronto has averaged 4.93 runs while outscoring the opposition, 69-46, and out-homering them, 22-11. That's not quite the Blue Jays of old, who averaged 5.5 runs, but it's close.
Jose Bautista frequently has been mentioned as one of the reasons for the Blue Jays' recent surge because the wins followed his ascension to the top of the batting order. One overlooked component, though, has been the return of second baseman Devon Travis.
Travis was activated from the 15-day disabled list on May 25 and has since hit .258 with a double, a home run and several timely hits with runners in scoring position. He contributed to Friday night's win with a two-run homer, his first since July 28 of last year, and while Travis alone is not responsible for Toronto's recent stretch, he's been a key component.
"He has a great short stroke," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He has the ability to foul off some tough pitches, which is one of the things that makes him so good. As his timing improves, gets a little more comfortable, he has a chance to be a really, really good hitter."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.