The Toronto Blue Jays were a favorite to win the American League East before the season started


Then faded after a poor start. They were in last place with a record of 13-24 on May 10, 9 1/2 games behind.

Now they’ve caught fire, playing like they were expected to. They won 11 straight games through Sunday before having their streak snapped on Monday. Toronto moved above the .500 mark on Saturday for the first time since last July.

Sunday’s 13-5 win over Baltimore matched a team record of 11 consecutive wins.

“I’ve been waiting for this since the season started,” said Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who hit a home run and had four RBIs on Sunday. “I believe in this team. I’m not surprised by this. I know this team is good and I know we can do it.”

The Blue Jays have their offense rolling again, ranking eighth in the major leagues in runs, and second in home runs. They outscored opponents 102-52 in winning 15 of 18 games. Along with the power of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus, first baseman Adam Lind is having a good start, batting .330 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in his first 62 games.

Toronto’s bullpen has been lights out. Blue Jays relievers ranked fourth in baseball with a 2.95 ERA. Casey Janssen had 17 saves, and Neil Wagner, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup had 17 combined holds and an ERA that ranged from 0.82 to 1.95.

And a pleasant addition to the starting rotation has been Chien-Ming Wang, 33, who was signed last month. In his last two starts out of three total, Wang (1-0, 2.18 ERA) hasn’t allowed an earned run.

Wang won 19 games for the New York Yankees in 2006-07 before injuries set him back. The Yankees released him at his request last month.

“That’s three really good ones,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Orioles. “He shut down a good hitting team. I know he feels good, he’s a part of it now. He’s given us a big boost, that’s for sure.”

Toronto looks like it’s getting into high gear, but will it fade again? Winning the AL East will be tough, with Boston, Baltimore, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay also capable of winning the division. But the Blue Jays are acting as if they want to be a part of the race now.

Wheeler dazzles in debut: First there was Matt Harvey making headlines in New York as a Mets starter and the foundation of the pitching rotation. Now there’s Zack Wheeler.

The news in the future could have Harvey and Wheeler leading the way, throwing fastballs from 98-100 mph.

Wheeler pitched six scoreless innings in his major league debut on June 18, as the Mets rolled to a 6-1 win over Atlanta. He allowed just four hits and struck out seven. The game capped a sweep of a doubleheader, with Harvey fanning a career-high 13 in the opener.

“I had some jitters going at first,” Wheeler said. “Then I settled down a little bit, found a rhythm, settled down, and I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes.”

Now if the Mets can just find some bats to go with the arms.

StatsWatch: Here are baseball’s stolen base leaders (through Saturday) –

  • Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, 32
  • Everth Cabrera, Padres, 31
  • Nate McLouth, Orioles, 24
  • Jean Segura, Brewers, 23
  • Starling Marte, Pirates, 22
  • Ben Revere, Phillies 20
  • Juan Pierre, Marlins, 18
  • Mike Trout, Angels, 18
  • Jason Kipnis, Indians, 17
  • Jose Altuve, Astros, 17

Diamond Notes: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera likely will be chosen as an All-Star this season, but some people would like to see the reliever with a record 634 regular-season saves start the All-Star Game. Rivera wants no part of that. He would rather close and get his fifth career save in the Mid-summer Classic. “I’ve been told about it, but I don’t like it,” Rivera told “It’s not what I do. What I do is close the games, I don’t start the games.”…Washington outfielder Bryce Harper is scheduled to begin a rehab stint this week at Class A Potomac. Harper has been out since May 26 with bursitis in his left knee. Harper, who has missed nearly a third of the Nationals games this season, had been running in the outfield and taking batting practice prior to the rehab assignment.

Copyright ã 2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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