The current Blue Jays team and the team it was two weeks ago -- it's like the before-and- after photos on Instagram of your friend who took up CrossFit and ate only celery and whey protein for a few months.
In the first photo, he's out of shape, wearing a straight expression. In the second, he's totally ripped, with a cocky "look at me now" smile.
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On July 28, the Blue Jays had just lost to the lowly Phillies, dropped a game under .500 and fallen eight games behind the Yankees. Then they woke up the morning after the trade deadline with a six-pack.
Five-time All-Star Troy Tulowitzki was manning shortstop. Former Cy Young Award winner David Price was atop the rotation. Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins sharpened the bullpen. Ben Revere added speed to an already dangerous outfield.
After the Blue Jays beat the Yankees, 2-0, on Sunday for their eighth straight win and first sweep in the Bronx since May 2003, the postgame talk centered on the impact that trade-deadline acquisitions can have.
"When you add five really talented major-leaguers that are great players, that have been in All-Star Games, playoffs, and they come to us all at the same time," Jose Bautista said, "it's pretty obvious that we're going to feel better about ourselves and we're a better team overall."
With Tulowitzki in the starting lineup, Toronto is 11-0. He's the first player in the club's history to win each of his first 11 starts.
But the Blue Jays' offense, which has generated an MLB-best 599 runs -- 70 more than the second-place Yankees -- has been hyped up all year. It's everything else they did in the series against the Yankees that caused shockwaves throughout the league.
The Yankees batted .151 (14-for-93) and scored one run in 28 innings in the series after scoring 90 runs in 10 games between July 25 and Aug. 4. Starters R.A. Dickey, David Price and Marco Estrada tossed gems and the bullpen was nearly unhittable. "You can't win anything without a good bullpen," manager John Gibbons said.
Estrada, who threw 61/3 innings Sunday and lowered his ERA to 3.21, shed light on another not-often-talked-about aspect of the team.
"The defense that we have," he said, "it's one of the better, if not the best, out there. We've got everything. When you're out there pitching, it gives you all the confidence in the world."
The Blue Jays already have proved that they can ride their powerhouse offense to a large winning streak. From June 2-14, they won 11 in a row, averaging eight runs. But when all other areas of the game are clicking, as they were against the Yankees, they become even more intimidating.
"This is definitely the time of year when you want to start playing your best baseball," said Josh Donaldson, who along with Bautista homered in the first and third games of the series (accounting for the Jays' only four runs in the two wins). "I think you've seen it within the last two weeks or so. It seems that every step that we've made, we've kept moving forward, kept moving forward."
Then and now. Before and after.
"More confidence now," Bautista said, "and everything seems more in reach, more attainable."