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A tale of two seasons: Blue Jays search for consistency

Toronto has shown flashes of brilliance, but suffered through tough stretches

A tale of two seasons: Blue Jays search for consistency

CHICAGO -- Canada's Wonderland is one of Toronto's biggest tourist attractions because of its wide variety of adventure rides, but the biggest roller coaster this summer can be found at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays have been through so many ups and downs this season that even the most loyal of fans have gotten a little bit squeamish. One week, Toronto looks like a bona fide postseason contender; the next, it looks like the club is on the verge of being knocked out for good.

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Manager John Gibbons has admitted time and time again that his team is one of "extremes." There really has been no middle ground this season, and that has made the Blue Jays an extremely tough group to figure out.

An inconsistent offense has been the main problem this season, but here's a look back at some of the highs and lows which have led to Toronto being four games back of the second American League Wild Card entering Monday.

An up-and-down year
April
Overall record: 12-15
Series record: 3-5-1
Probability of postseason:
High -- 31 percent on April 13
Low -- 19 percent on April 29
May
Overall record: 21-9
Series record: 7-3
Probability of postseason:
High -- 65 percent on May 28
Low -- 17 percent on May 4
June
Overall record: 12-15
Series record: 2-5-1
Probability of postseason:
High -- 85 percent on June 6
Low -- 53 percent on June 30
July
Overall record: 15-11
Series record: 5-3
Probability of postseason:
High -- 61 percent on July 2
Low -- 26 percent on July 21
August
Overall record to date: 4-11
Series record: 1-4
Probability of postseason:
High -- 29 percent on Aug. 10
Low -- 8 percent on Aug. 15

April

The good: Left-hander Mark Buehrle entered the season as a notoriously slow starter, but that wasn't the case this year. He became the club's early ace by going 4-0 with a 0.64 ERA in his first four starts. Buehrle shared Player of the Month honors with Melky Cabrera, who kicked off his bounce-back season with a Major League-leading 41 hits. Cabrera had a .342 average with 15 extra-base hits and 11 RBIs to help Toronto overcome an early-season injury to leadoff hitter Jose Reyes.

The bad: The Blue Jays had an opportunity to break away from the pack in the AL East, but the bullpen cost them too many games. A stretch from April 17 until May 3 saw Toronto relievers combine to register six blown saves. The bullpen allowed 40 earned runs, 55 hits and 33 walks over 48 1/3 innings, which equates to a 7.45 ERA and a 1.82 WHIP. The team was lost without closer Casey Janssen, who began the year on the DL with a strained oblique.

May

The good: Toronto enjoyed a record-breaking month thanks to an offense that was the best in baseball for a long stretch. The Blue Jays ranked first in the Major Leagues with 165 runs, 48 homers, a .276 average and an .829 OPS. Edwin Encarnacion was the main star as he set a franchise record for most home runs in any month with 16. Encarnacion also was named the AL Player of the Month and was one off Barry Bonds' all-time home run record for May. Toronto had a season-high nine-game winning streak and won seven of its 10 series.

The bad: One of the only low points came during a four-game series against the Angels from May 9-12. The powerful offense went quiet during that stretch by scoring nine runs, compared to the 38 it had in five previous games. Other than that minor letdown, there was nothing else to complain about as the club tied a franchise record for most wins in a month with 21.

June

The good: Toronto had a season-high 6 1/2 game lead on top of the AL East standings. Even though the Blue Jays went on to have a losing record during the month, they still maintained that lead throughout June. The high point came on June 20 against the Reds when Toronto had its second largest comeback in franchise history. The Blue Jays fell behind 8-0 early, but came back to win 14-9, which included five runs in the ninth off All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.

The bad: The Blue Jays crashed back to reality after their memorable run by going through a stretch of five winless series from June 6-22. The main problem was the lack of offense as Toronto scored 51 runs over 16 games, which was the second worst in the Majors. Included in that stretch was getting swept yet again at Yankee Stadium. At that point, the Blue Jays had lost 16 consecutive games in New York, which was the longest streak for the Yankees since they won 19 in a row vs. the Indians from 1960-62.

Runs scored by month
April: Sixth in Majors with 120
May: First with 165
June: 17th with 105
July: Fourth with 120
August: 29th with 46

July

The good: The club limped into the All-Star break and appeared to be on the verge of falling out of contention until it bounced back in a big way. The Blue Jays won each of their first four series after the break, while rookie right-hander Marcus Stroman emerged as a potential front-line starter. Toronto won a series in New York for the first time since 2012, and the Blue Jays went through a stretch from July 20-31 where they scored at least five runs in all but three of their 12 games.

The bad: Toronto fell apart on a 2-8 road trip through Oakland, Anaheim and St. Petersburg. It dropped out of first place for the first time since May. And to make matters worse, the club lost Encarnacion and Adam Lind to long-term injuries. Once again, the lack of offense reared its ugly head as the Blue Jays were unable to score more than two runs in five consecutive games for the first time since 1996. In those five games, Toronto went 0-for-21 with runners in scoring position and was hitting .191 (41-for-215) in those situations dating all the way back to June 6. Buehrle also regressed by going winless through a span of nine starts while posting a 4.83 ERA with a .312/.356/.489 slash line.

August

The good: The lone bright spot to date came during the week of Aug. 11 when Lind and Encarnacion made their returns to the lineup after missing six weeks because of injuries. Their presence helped spark an otherwise dormant offense, which after Sunday's loss in Chicago has scored at least five runs in three consecutive games for the first time since July 26-28.

The bad: Toronto began the month getting outscored 60-30 over its first 12 games. The Blue Jays have lost four of their five series and dropped to a season-high 7 1/2 games back of the first-place Orioles in the AL East. Infielder Brett Lawrie finally got back into the lineup after missing approximately two months, but his return lasted all of three innings before he had to go back on the DL with a strained oblique. Toronto is now chasing three teams for the second AL Wild Card, and it faces an uphill battle for the final six weeks of the season with a four-game deficit.

What they have to say about it

"We have been streaky, both good and bad, and we're due for a good one, a good run. That's how I look at it, just have to stay positive, remain optimistic, keep our poise and keep attacking." -- R.A. Dickey

"Obviously it's not the most comfortable because you're not at the top and you're not in that comfortable position. ... We have to play the same way we would if we were in first place. We just have to come out here and try to win every single game. Just hope that the guys who are ahead of us lose enough games so that we gain that ground. ... That certainly can happen. It happened to us, we were at the top not too long ago and now we're [7 1/2] games back. It's not like it's a crazy amount of games to try to make up." -- Jose Bautista

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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