MLB Insider: Blue Jays flying high in wacky AL East

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL III , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 1, 2014 - 12:32 AM
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The Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion found his long-ball swing in May. He hit 16 homers last month, tying an American League record set by Mickey Mantle.

Photo: Darren Calabrese • Associated Press via The Canadian Press,

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The Twins defeated the Yankees on Friday to improve to 9-4 against AL East opponents this season. It wasn’t too long ago that the Twins were being manhandled by the division.

Entering Sunday’s game against the Yankees, the Twins have not lost a series to an AL East team this season, taking two of three from the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles and Red Sox. The Twins are taking advantage of a wacky division.

The Rays were expected to compete for the division title but are battling the Astros for the worst record in the AL.

The Red Sox, the defending World Series champions, lost 10 consecutive games in May.

The Orioles consider themselves to be challengers, but catcher Matt Wieters’ elbow injury hasn’t helped. And where would they be without Nelson Cruz?

The Yankees just aren’t as deep as they were a few years ago, and have earned their mediocre record in Derek Jeter’s final season.

That leaves the Blue Jays, a team many thought was the worst in this division, in first place and looking like a force. Toronto entered Saturday second in the league in runs scored while the other four teams are in the bottom half.

Toronto is a sizzling 20-9 in May, entering Saturday’s game. Edwin Encarnacion has smashed 16 homers this month, tying Mickey Mantle for the AL record and getting within one of Barry Bonds’ record for home runs in May. Mark Buehrle, a former Twins nemesis, is 9-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey looks more like the pitcher Toronto wanted when it traded with the Mets for him.

With about a third of the schedule complete, teams now know what they have, and the transaction wire in this division will light up over the next several weeks.

Boston already has signed Stephen Drew and reportedly is looking for a center fielder so Jackie Bradley Jr. can be shipped to the minors. The Red Sox could be finished if some of the players who helped them win the title last season don’t come around.

The Yankees reportedly are considering signing free-agent first baseman Kendrys Morales to help their sagging offense, but they need CC Sabathia (right knee) to return from the disabled list in midseason form.

Baltimore, which can’t put a complete game together, is crossing its fingers as Wieters tests his elbow with light throwing. Meanwhile, former Twin Johan Santana, recovering from shoulder surgery, could join the rotation sometime in June.

The Jays aren’t sitting back, as they check on available pitchers. The team that makes the best trade — or gets healthy the earliest — could take the East.

The rulebook states that every division has to have a winner. In a season where up is down and down us up in the East, why not the Blue Jays?

Central Intelligence

Nothing can force change like losing to the lowly Astros. The Royals were swept by Houston last week, outscored 21-5 in three games. The Royals did not focus on the fact their pitching was poor. They looked at the offense, where they have fallen to last in the American League in slugging percentage, home runs and runs scored. Hitting coach Pedro Grifol was fired and replaced by third base coach Dale Sveum. The Royals have hit 24 home runs through Friday — 24!

• The Tigers signed Joe Nathan in hopes he would be the solution to the closing problem that has plagued them in recent seasons. But Nathan has already blown more saves and given up more home runs and earned runs than all of last season.

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Tennessee 13 4th Qtr 2:00
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 57 3rd Qtr
Sacramento 54
Oklahoma City 40 1st Qtr 1:08
Golden State 27
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 2 1st Prd 4:52
Los Angeles 0
Edmonton 1 2nd Prd
San Jose 0
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 1st OT 2:09
Evansville 75
CS-Dominguez 17 2nd Half
Cal State Fullerton 30
Walla Walla 18 2nd Half
Idaho 49
DePaul 28 2nd Half
Oregon State 48
Nevada 19 2nd Half 18:40
Pacific 37
Portland State 22 2nd Half 15:40
San Francisco 52
CS-Bakersfield 18 2nd Half
Utah State 20
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
Santa Clara 76 1st OT 0:02
Oregon 76
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