The Toronto Blue Jays tied their team record for consecutive wins by winning an 11th straight game in yet another double-digit stomp, winning 13-5 to complete their sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Fenway. It has been a fun run, but things really haven’t changed much in a week. Now that they’ve caught up to the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays in the standings, the question is whether they're equipped to stay there for the three months to come as they aim to win their first American League East title -- and postseason appearance -- since 1993.
Nobody doubts their offense. Scoring 88 runs during their 11-game win streak is what has really made the difference, because the pitching staff's performance -- giving up 3.6 runs per game over that stretch, in a league in which the average team allows 4.2 -- really hasn't been over the top. The offense has powered the Jays' romp toward the top of the AL East standings. They’re now 12-0 when they score 10 or more runs, 28-2 when they score six or more.
There’s no particular genius to it except via offseason design with third baseman Josh Donaldson and catcher Russell Martin making cases that they're baseball's best ballplayers at their positions. But that isn't to say that the Jays haven’t also been smart about maxing out their offensive potential. Give credit to the stack of free talent finds populating the roster, because while the Jays might resemble a "stars and scrubs" setup on offense, the scrubs aren't so scrubby.
Sunday's biggest hero on offense was defensive whiz Ryan Goins, who homered, doubled and plated five runs. Guys such as Justin Smoak and Danny Valencia have been cut repeatedly for what they aren't (good everyday players) but they've been excellent complementary players with the Jays, Valencia mashing against lefties (his core skill) while Smoak beats up on right-handers who lack strong breaking stuff. Using the back end of their roster, the Jays play matchup games to advantage on offense, but that's consistent with what manager John Gibbons has done with useful platoon players such as Juan Francisco and Steve Tolleson in the past.
Can the Jays keep those guys and Chris Colabello in the mix to help them keep two of their key everyday players -- Edwin Encarnacion (who has been on the DL each of the past two years) and Jose Bautista (who missed big chunks of 2012 and 2013) -- healthy? The payoff is synergistic: Keep the stars healthy enough to play across the six months of the season, and guys such as Smoak or Valencia or Tolleson won't get over-exposed with too many at-bats and opportunities to show you what they can’t do.
But to stick with the present, let's be clear what the Jays did this week. They stomped all over a bad Marlins team, getting three quality starts -- including a spot start from call-up Scott Copeland. Then they swept a Red Sox team with an even more pronounced rotation problem than their own, winning all three games despite giving up 19 runs while seeing Drew Hutchison, R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada all get lit up in their starts against Boston.
Seeing that from their rotation reinforces the big-picture question of whether the Jays can reliably beat good pitching. That isn’t to say they can’t beat quality starters -- they took down Washington's Max Scherzer to start the win streak, after all -- but when the next-best guy they've faced in that run was someone like Dan Haren or Clay Buchholz, you can't say their offense or team wasn't helped during the win streak. Facing two teams back-to-back who are as weak offensively as the Marlins (23rd in run scoring) and the Red Sox (24th) helps, too.
The reason this is important is because you have to ask yourself what happens to this team when it stops averaging eight runs per game for weeks at a time. They're still short of the starting pitching that can win without that kind of run support. Can they do something to change that?
In prospects such as Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris, Toronto has the high-upside pitching talents that might grow up to be top-shelf starters. The problem is that the Jays' moment of need is now, and neither of them is guaranteed to be that guy between now and September. (Whether he has to be dealt or he delivers, Sanchez's move to the DL with a lat strain on Sunday couldn't be more inconveniently timed.) And outside of a good group of high-upside, high-risk Dominican imports far from the majors, the Norris/Sanchez tandem are the Jays' best stock in trade if they're going to turn this good run into a shot at winning a few short series in October. Can the Jays afford to deal away either of their futures?
Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos might be able to throw a big enough bundle of the lower-level guys at Cincinnati to land Johnny Cueto to rent the Reds' ace for the remainder of the season before he departs for free agency, but that requires Cinci’s Walt Jocketty to take a serious shine to Richard Urena, Miguel Castro or Jairo Labourt. But if Anthopoulos is going to chase after lefty Cole Hamels of the Phillies, you’d expect that Sanchez or Norris would have to be in the package.
Does Anthopoulos go for it? Between now and the end of July trade deadline, there might not be a more interesting question.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.