What a time to be a Jays fan. Just when all hope seemed to be lost, and everybody and their mothers were on the disabled list, the scrappy Jays found ways to grind out important wins and not only keep the team afloat, but propel them back into the playoff picture. After ending the month of April with an 8-17 record, the beaten up blue birds ended the month of May with a 17-10 record, finishing as the third best team in baseball during May. If you told me at the beginning of May that the Jays would be the third best team in baseball during the month with all the injuries they had, I would have encouraged you to call a doctor.
Not only did the bench bodies contribute massively, but certain regular players that survived the DL plague improved on horrendous performances in April. We will touch on a few key contributors that helped the Blue Jays get to where they are currently and what we can expect from this team moving into June.
Look no further than the Blue Jays "Player of the Month" for May than Devon Travis. In my opinion he should have won AL Player of the Month as well, but that's another discussion all together. After batting an abysmal .130, Travis turned it around and batted .364 for the month of May and had 16 doubles to go along with that. Along with the hot bat came some great defence, and we were treated to a lot of stellar plays from Travis this month. His improved play is arguably the most influential factor in propelling the Jays back up near .500.
Sense a theme here? The longest tenured Blue Jay on the team took a long time to reclaim his WBC form, but once Bautista figured that out it's been nothing but rave reviews for the fan favourite. Bautista struggled mightily in April, but had a .317 average and nine home runs during the month of May. These improved numbers help the Jays finally put runs on the board, something that they struggled to do all April. I recently wrote an article showcasing the highlights and disappointments of the 2017 season so far (you can read it here if you haven't already), and I had Bautista listed as a disappointment. I knew that list would look different, I just didn't realize it would only take 10 days for any changes to happen...
I don't think there's enough that can be said about Smoak and his season that he's put together so far. At the time of writing this article (June 4th) he leads the team in average (.283), home runs (14) and RBI's (39). If that doesn't have you impressed for whatever reason, here's Smoak's ranking in categories among AL first basemen: Home Runs - 2nd, Runs - Tied for 1st, RBI - 1st, Slugging Percentage - 1st, OPS - 1st and WAR - 2nd. Smoak is on his way to not only being in the All-Star game, but being the AL starter for first base. These type of numbers and productivity from someone you never expected it from goes a long way for a once struggling team. I have been so critical of Smoak in the past, so all I can really do at this point is say that I'm sorry I ever doubted you.
I know I'm going off the board here, but in my opinion the most underrated (or underappreciated) add to this team has been the 8th inning presence of Joe Smith. The 32 year old right handed sidearm pitcher came into this season fighting for that set up role, and he has done a tremendous job closing the gap between the starting pitchers and Osuna. In 27.2 innings pitched, Smith has a 2.93 ERA to go along with 42 STRIKEOUTS! He's also only walked seven batters all year, and has not issued one walk to a right handed batter. This shows an incredible ability to control and locate pitches, and Smith has brought a calming presence to a bullpen that had no sure thing other than Osuna leading into May.
Maybe Gibbons knew something that the fan base didn't leading into May. He stated that his players "get frustrated" but "never shut down." He must have a great feel for his clubhouse because it appears as though the words "shut down" aren't in anybody's vocabulary.
June promises to be a month in which the Jays can build upon their success of May. Do they have another 17-10 month in them? It's possible. With series matchups against weak opponents such as the A's, Mariners, White Sox, Royals, and the choke of a team Texas Rangers, expect the Jays to finish June no longer being the basement dwellers of the AL East, and being closer to first place than last.