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Toronto Blue Jays: 10 Most Memorable Highlights of the Season's First Half

Stephen BrownCorrespondent IIJune 18, 2016

Toronto Blue Jays: 10 Most Memorable Highlights of the Season's First Half

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    The Toronto Blue Jays have had quite the interesting first half of the season. From bottoming out, and many calling them down and out in May, to a franchise-tying eleven game winning streak, the Blue Jays have seen it all.

    Couple that with an onslaught of injuries to key contributors (Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera), and the Jays must be pretty happy to be in the thick of it at the beginning of July.

    So let us reflect on the first half of the Blue Jays 2013 season and look at the ten most memorable moments to date.

Kawasaki: I Am Japanese!!!!

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    Kawasaki's "I am Japanese" became a huge viral hit.

    Not much else to say other than the fans loved him from day one.

Blue Jays 8-7 Win After Trailing by Seven Runs

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    On May 6th, 2013 I believe the Blue Jays season spun on its head, and its direction dramatically shifted.

    After being down 7-0 in the third inning, the Jays rallied back to win 8-7 in the ninth inning, capped off by a J.P Arencibia two-run homer with two outs and two strikes.

    Since that game—where starter Mark Buehrle gave up seven earned runs—Buehrle has been much improved, sporting a 3.34 ERA. The overall camaraderie seemed to increase, and the Jays seemed ready to turn their season around.

    I wrote an article here stating that this win would be a catalyst for the Blue Jays, and I was right. They played .500 ball for the rest of the month, and capped that off with a 17-9 month of June.

    That was a very memorable game. 

Team Meeting to Announce Kawasaki's Demotion

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    Kawasaki has become a continental sensation, and appears throughout North America on every version of Sportscenter you can find. He has been featured on Intentional Talk with Kevin Millar and Chris Rose, as well as going viral on multiple occasions.

    As much as everybody wanted MK to stay on the club, upon Reyes' return from the DL, he was subsequently sent down.

    The fact that the Blue Jays called a team meeting to tell everyone that he was demoted shows just how impactful he was on the team.

    Calling a team meeting goes against common practice when it comes to roster decisions. As stated by Mark Buehrle courtesy of the Toronto Star:

    "'I’ve never seen that,' said Buehrle, a veteran of more than 14 seasons. 'Usually you come in the next day and look at the guy’s locker and say, Oh, that guy got sent down, this guy’s coming up.’”

    Clearly it was memorable.

Dustin McGowan's Return to the Team

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    Dustin McGowan finally returned to the Blue Jays after being gone for what seemed like half a decade.

    Dustin McGowan has essentially not played since 2008, save a couple inning in 2011. He returned to the Blue Jays roster on June 8th and has pitched quite well and maintained good velocity this season.

    The 31-year-old McGowan is sporting a 2.32 ERA coming out of the bullpen, and has struck out more than a batter an inning. The only runs he has given up so far this season have come via the long ball.

    Will we see him back in the rotation at some point? Maybe. But the last thing the Jays want to see is DuMcG injured once again.

Adam Lind's Resurgence

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    One of the biggest surprises of the Blue Jays season has been the play of Adam Lind.

    Having been constantly badgered by the media (including yours truly) for his erratic play, Lind has proven to many that sticking it out with a player can definitely lead to results.

    Although this isn't necessarily one memorable moment from the past half season, it is definitely a highlight that has lasted throughout May and June.

    Let us hope his batting average (.327) can remain over .300 for the entire season.

Strength of the Bullpen

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    Like Lind, this isn't necessarily a lasting moment from the first half of the season, but more of a great trend that is brewing in the YYZ.

    The Blue Jays relievers are among the best in the business as a cohesive unit, especially with the emergence of Brett Cecil among the southpaws.

    To have three players that have a legitimate shot at making the All-Star team in your pen is quite a feat, and Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil and Casey Janssen are all deserving of such an honor.

Tom Cheek Day

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    Tom Cheek Day was a beautiful thing to see for Blue Jays fans, and was well done by the Blue Jays brass.

    TCD was a way to commemorate the long-time Blue Jays announcer who was the voice of the Blue Jays from 1977 to 2004.

    To learn more about Tom Cheek, click here and here.

Esmil's Dominance in the Rotation

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    Esmil Rogers has been a very dominant pitcher since joining the rotation. Even before that, pitching multiple innings, Rogers established himself as more than a stopgap starter.

    Since May 21, when the Blue Jays started to use Esmil a long inning reliever and then subsequently a starter, Rogers' ERA is 2.19.

    More importantly, the Blue Jays have won six of the seven games he has started.

    Pretty impressive, and a great highlight from the first half.

Camaraderie

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    Camaraderie is so very important in baseball. Many times you hear about a signing and they say "He is a really good clubhouse guy." People say that all the time about Mark DeRosa.

    But what exactly does that mean? It is nearly impossible to measure, but at the end of the day if it turns into wins then who cares.

    Clearly, the Blue Jays have a very strong group atmosphere in the clubhouse, and guys like Kawasaki, Reyes and DeRosa (all newcomers) have made great strides to make that happen.

11-Game Winning Streak

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    What is there to say here?

    Probably the most memorable aspect of the first half of the season was the franchise record-tying 11-game winning streak.

    Everyone contributed: The Jays received great starting pitching, and the team really came together.

    No need to harp on the fact that they are 3-7 since the streak;  it definitely put them back on the wild card and AL East map.

     

    Thank you for reading.

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