Bullpen of the Week: Keeping Toronto in hunt

Blue Jays' relief corps navigates week of tight contests

Bullpen of the Week: Keeping Toronto in hunt

Last Monday the Blue Jays found themselves just a half-game back of the first-place Orioles in the American League East. Standing in front of them, however, were tough series against the Astros and Royals -- two of their fellow participants in the 2015 AL playoffs.

Today, Toronto finds itself just about in the same position -- one game behind Baltimore -- despite a roller-coaster week in which all but one of its seven games were decided by three runs or fewer. The Blue Jays went 4-2 in those tight contests, thanks in large part to a stoic bullpen that refused to yield much in the late innings.

The Blue Jays' relievers enjoyed a stellar week that made them integral to the team's success, and earned them the Bullpen of the Week award presented by The Hartford.

BULLPEN OF THE WEEK WINNERS
Week Team
April 3-10 A's
April 11-17 Twins
April 18-24 Nationals
April 25-May 1 Phillies
May 2-8 Angels
May 9-15 Yankees
May 16-22 Cubs
May 23-29 Astros
May 30-June 5 Dodgers
June 6-12 Yankees
June 13-19 Marlins
June 20-26 Tigers
June 27-July 3 Pirates
July 4-10 Dodgers
July 18-24 Yankees
July 25-31 Brewers
Aug. 1-7 Blue Jays
Aug. 8-14 Mariners
Aug. 15-21 Royals
Aug. 22-28 Pirates
Aug. 29-Sept. 4 Cubs
Sept. 5-11 Astros
Sept. 12-18 Pirates
Sept. 19-25 Dodgers
Sept. 28-Oct. 2 Mariners

As part of the MLB Prevailing Moments program, each Monday throughout the 2016 season, MLB.com is honoring the Bullpen of the Week presented by The Hartford. An industry-wide panel of MLB experts, including legendary stats guru Bill James, constructed a metric based on James' widely renowned game-score formula to provide a weekly measurement of team-bullpen performance.

Here's how the Bullpen Rating System is compiled for each week. For reference, a weekly score of 100 is considered outstanding:

• Add 1.5 points for each out recorded
• Add 1.5 points for each strikeout
• Add 5 points for a save
• Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed
• Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed
• Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed
• Subtract 1 point for each walk
• Subtract 5 points for a blown save

Toronto captured its first Bullpen of the Week award of the season by scoring 96.5 points. Blue Jays relievers combined to allow just five earned runs on 14 hits over 21 innings while striking out 22 and walking only three. A trio of relievers earned at least one save each this past week, speaking to the all-hands-on-deck approach the bullpen needed to embrace in so many close games.

Toronto's bullpen displayed an ability to withstand adversity and succeed despite unexpected circumstances. Here's a look at their biggest obstacle:

The unexpected: The Blue Jays and Royals were tied, 3-3, in their series opener on Friday in Kansas City when recent acquisition Scott Feldman took over for Francisco Liriano to begin the bottom of the seventh. Feldman had given up the game-winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning to his former team, the Astros, in his Toronto debut on Monday and was looking for a confidence booster.

How they prevailed: Feldman worked a clean 1-2-3 inning, and Brett Cecil did the same in the eighth with the score still tied at 3. The Blue Jays finally pushed ahead in the top of the ninth on Devon Travis' solo home run, but closer Roberto Osuna was unavailable to close out a potential win after pitching the previous two days.

No matter. Manager John Gibbons instead gave the ball to Joaquin Benoit, who worked around an error (later wiped out on a caught stealing) and a single by striking out the Royals' Alcides Escobar with the potential tying run on first base to end the game. It was Benoit's first recorded save since April 19 of last year.

The Astros' bullpen had a fine week of its own, placing second in the standings with 85 points. Houston relievers rank second in the AL with a 3.17 ERA and have struck out more batters (407) than any other bullpen in baseball. The Braves finished third, with 77.5 points, marking their second top-three showing in as many weeks.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.