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Burns, Blue Jays clinch first-half title06/19/2013 11:38 AM ET
By John Parker / MLB.com
With a half-game lead over Brevard County entering the final day of the season's first half, Dunedin controlled its own fate Wednesday morning.
The Blue Jays took care of business, beating visiting Tampa, 8-4, to seal the Florida State League's first-half North Division title. After losing five straight at Clearwater and Palm Beach last week, Dunedin won its final four games -- including a three-game sweep of the last-place Yankees -- to earn a postseason berth.
Third baseman Andy Burns, who leads the Jays in hitting at .327, fifth best in the league, contributed three hits and scored twice on Wednesday. During the crucial four-game winning streak, Burns went 10-for-21 with nine RBIs.
"We've got a bunch of grinders on this team," Burns said. "We hit a rough stretch there, but we looked each other in the eye and realized that making the playoffs was still in our control. It's great to get it done and reach our goal."
Dunedin got a boost this week with the presence of four-time National League All-Star Jose Reyes, who is recovering from a badly sprained ankle suffered on April 12. Reyes joined Toronto's Class A Advanced affiliate on Monday and started Dunedin's final three games at shortstop, going 5-for-12 with one RBI and three runs scored.
"It was great having him here," said Jays manager Bobby Meacham. "He didn't big league us -- he got his work in, played hard and fit in well with the guys we have here."
Burns concurred. "It was a lot of fun having that type of an athlete here. He's a great guy, and it kind of gave us a taste of what the talent is like at that level," he said.
The victory put Dunedin in the postseason for the fourth straight year and ninth time in 11 seasons. The Blue Jays have lost in the first round in each of the last three seasons and have never won the Florida State League title.
"I'm really proud of the guys," Meacham said. "We played a little tight last week but were able to learn from it and close it out. It's a lot of fun when you're playing well and winning and getting that much closer to your goal."
Dunedin got on the board early when Burns delivered a two-out single in the first inning and later scored when K.C. Hobson drew a bases-loaded walk. Left fielder Marcus Knecht drove in a second run with a single.
Tampa responded with three runs in the third, courtesy of Ben Gamel's solo homer and a two-run shot from Saxon Butler, but the Blue Jays answered with three runs in the home half of the frame. Burns started the surge with a leadoff single, scoring on Mike Crouse's 11th double of the season. A throwing error by Yankees third baseman Anderson Feliz allowed Dunedin to score its fourth and fifth runs.
Dunedin added runs in the fourth and fifth -- the latter on an RBI single from Reyes -- to take an 8-3 lead. Tampa third baseman Anderson Feliz smacked his first homer of the year in the ninth, a solo shot, to cap the scoring.
Starter Casey Lawrence (4-6) got the win for Dunedin, allowing three runs on eight hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out three for his first victory since May 15. Tony Davis and Ajay Meyer pitched a scoreless inning apiece and Alan Farina worked the ninth, striking out the side after surrendering Feliz's home run.
Crouse collected a pair of doubles, right fielder Nick Baligod doubled and singled and Reyes singled twice and stole a base for the Blue Jays, who out-hit the Yankees, 11-10.
Tampa starter Corey Black fell to 2-7 with the loss, giving up five runs -- three earned -- on four hits and two walks over three frames. He struck out three.