By Bob Hurst
The way the Toronto Blue Jays are pounding the ball, they might just make things a little sticky for contenders in the American League East, and at least for the league’s wild-card contenders.
Toronto is still in the hunt in its division thanks to its run scoring and slugging capabilities. The Blue Jays went into Tuesday’s game leading the major leagues in runs with 247; home runs with 76; total bases with 754 and in slugging percentage at .467.
In the past two weeks, the Jays won games by scores of 16-10 over Texas, 11-2 over Minnesota and 12-4 over Arizona. In the game against the Diamondbacks, Toronto notched a season-high 17 hits.
Edwin Encarnacion, who was out for a month with a shoulder injury, joined the power bandwagon over the weekend at Arizona. He hit five home runs in the series, including three on Friday and a two-run shot on Sunday.
“I got hot in this series and I’ll just keep working,” said Encarnacion, who went 7-for-19 with six homers and 11 RBIs since his return from the disabled list on May 17.
Jose Bautista had a two-run homer on Sunday, and led the majors in that department with 15 after Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
“They seem to catch the momentum,” said Diamondbacks starter Billy Buckner on Sunday. “They hit together. It was contagious for them.”
The Blue Jays hit 10 home runs in the three games against Arizona before starting off this week with a 6-0 homerless win over the Angels on Monday.
Bautista was tied for fourth in the majors with 39 RBIs. Vernon Wells (11 HR, 33 RBI) and Alex Gonzalez (10 HR, 30 RBI) have also been major offensive contributors for the Blue Jays.
If Toronto is to make a run for the postseason, it will have to do something about its pitching. The Jays rank 18th in baseball with a 4.26 ERA. But for now, they’ll keep circling the bases, and aggravating opposing pitchers.
Phils lead attendance ladder: Just past the first quarter of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies are leading the major leagues in home attendance with an average of 45,114 fans per game. The defending National League champions are followed by the World Series champion New York Yankees, who are second with a 44,956 average.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are third (43,712); St. Louis fourth (39,461) and the Los Angeles Angels fifth (39,303).
Minnesota, which opened a new open-air stadium this season, ranks sixth with an average of 38,715 fans per game. The Chicago Cubs (38,572), Boston (37,519), San Francisco (36,220) and Milwaukee (35,471) round out the top 10.
In Florida, where regular-season baseball has always had trouble drawing fans, Tampa Bay comes in at 21st with an average of 22,755, which is poor considering the Rays have the best record in the majors. The Marlins are 27th at 17,468.
Toronto, another team with a winning record, is 29th in attendance at 16,267 while Cleveland is last with a 15,494 average.
StatsWatch: Who’s knocking it out of the ballpark? Here are baseball’s home run leaders (through Tuesday) –
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 15
Paul Konerko, White Sox, 14
Ty Wigginton, Orioles, 13
Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks, 12
Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers, 12
Dan Uggla, Marlins, 12
Jose Guillen, Royals, 11
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays, 11
Justin Morneau, Twins, 11
Andre Ethier, Dodgers, 11
Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks, 11
Fun Fact: When David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis homered in Monday’s game for the Red Sox, it tied the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada for the most times a pair of AL teammates have hit a home run in the same game with 19.
Diamond Notes: Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano will likely return to the rotation next week after spending a month in the bullpen. Zambrano, who threw 75 pitches in a simulated game on Monday, was moved to relief in an effort to plug up the leak in the set-up man’s role. But Zambrano never embraced the move, and results were mixed…After a slow start, Boston slugger David Ortiz is back in the groove, and helping the Red Sox win. Ortiz had a two-run double in Boston’s 2-0 win at Tampa Bay on Tuesday. It was the fifth win in six games for the Red Sox. Ortiz hit five homers and knocked in 14 runs during a 10-game stretch. He is batting .258 after hitting just .185 with four homers and 11 RBIs on May 10.
Copyright © 2010 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.