With a 15-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on September 30, the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first AL East title since 1993 and a berth in the Division Series. A 93-69 record earned Toronto not only the division crown, but home-field advantage in the Division Series against the Rangers. Here's a look at some of the highlights of the Blue Jays' return to prominence:
Josh Donaldson provides a big boost at the hot corner
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos made his first big move in late November, acquiring Josh Donaldson from Oakland for a package of players that included Brett Lawrie and Kendall Graveman. Donaldson went on to be a serious MVP contender in 2015, hitting .297/.371/.568 with 41 home runs and a league-leading 352 total bases. He was also third in baseball among position players with 8.7 fWAR.
Bautista and Encarnacion have strong seasons yet again
Toronto brought Donaldson into a lineup that already included a pair of sluggers in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Both of the veteran right-handers were excellent again in 2015, with Bautista hitting .250/.377/.536 with 40 home runs and Encarnacion hitting .277/.372/.557 with 39 home runs, including a month of August in which he hit .407 with 11 homers.
Major additions at the trade deadline
With the Blue Jays in the thick of the pennant race in late July, Anthopoulos made arguably the two biggest moves at the trade deadline in an attempt to chase down the Yankees. The first came on July 28 when he traded 2014 first-round pick Jeff Hoffman along with fellow pitching prospects Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco and big league shortstop Jose Reyes to the Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki played just 41 games for Toronto, missing several weeks with a cracked shoulder blade, hitting .239/.317/.380 with five home runs, but could be a key factor for the Blue Jays in the postseason.
Two days later, Toronto bolstered its rotation, trading a package centered around Daniel Norris to the Tigers for left-hander David Price. Price made 11 starts down the stretch for the Blue Jays, with a 2.30 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 87 strikeouts in 74⅓ innings. He will start Game 1 of the ALDS against Texas on Thursday.