A trio of top stars led the Toronto Blue Jays back above the .500 mark for the first time since 2000 and gave the club the most wins in a season since going 88–74 in 1998. Vernon Wells, Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay all established significant new careermarks en route to setting impressive club records and leading the American League in several important categories.
Both Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays started the season slowly. After a breakthrough 19–7 season in 2002, “Doc” earned the starting assignment against the New York Yankees on Opening Day but took the loss in an 8–4 Yankees victory. Halladay suffered another loss and two no decisions in his next three April starts as the Toronto Blue Jays struggled out of the gate with a 10–18 record for the month. Though Carlos Delgado hit at a .366 clip with 28 RBI in April, the Toronto Blue Jays suffered through a season-high six-game losing streak between April 10-15 and fell to a season-low eight games below .500 twice during the month. One of the few highlights in the season’s opening month came on April 27 when the Toronto Blue Jays scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat Kansas City 10–9. Toronto had trailed 7–0 in the second inning and 8–1 through six.
Halladay helped May get started off right with his first win of the season on May 1. He would win all six of his starts in May (winning honors as American League Pitcher of the Month) as the Toronto Blue Jays posted the best monthly mark in club history with a record of 21–8. Veteran catcher and former Blue Jay Greg Myers had returned to Toronto as a free agent in the offseason. Amazingly, he would enjoy his best season at the age of 36, establishing personal highs with 121 games played, 101 hits, 15 home runs, 52 RBI and a .307 batting average. He kick-started his career year with a .361mark in May, one of eight Toronto Blue Jays to hit .300 or better for the month. Vernon Wells, who had hit just .246 in April, batted at a .317 clip in May while driving in a club-high 28 runs. Wells went 4-for-6 with three runs scored and four RBI to pace Toronto to an 18–1 win in Kansas City on May 16. The 17-run difference marked the largest margin of victory in team history. The month also featured the first four-game sweep of the Yankees by the Toronto Blue Jays when the team took four in a row at Yankee Stadium between May 22–25.
Toronto was just two games out of first place as June began, but fell behind the Red Sox 6–0 in the third inning of their game on June 1. Roy Halladay managed to survive the shaky start and held on to pick up the win when his teammates rallied for an 11-8 victory and a three-game sweep of Boston. Halladay continued his winning ways right through June, running his record to 11–2 with a club-record 11 wins in 11 consecutive starts. Vernon Wells hit .369 for the month and socked eight homers, but it was Carlos Delgado who truly swung the hot bat. Delgado slugged 10 roundtrippers and knocked in 34 runs, breaking the club record of 32 RBI in a month he had previously shared with Dave Winfield.
Delgado entered July with 89 RBI and had a shot at Hank Greenberg’s 1935 Major League mark of 103 RBI before the All-Star Break, but fell just short with 97 when the Break began on July 14. He had to settle for moving into third place on the list and becoming one of only nine players in history to record 90 RBI before the All-Star Game.
July was not kind to the Toronto Blue Jays, as they suffered through their worst month of the season with a record of 8–17. Roy Halladay continued his winning ways, however, and, with a few no decisions tossed in, ran his streak to 15 wins in a row on July 27. Working on just three days rest for the third time during the season, Halladay allowed the Baltimore Orioles just two hits in seven scoreless innings en route to a 10–1 victory. His 15 straight wins tied Roger Clemens’ club record and left him just one short of the American League mark. However, Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays were defeated 5–0 by the Anaheim Angels on August 1. The loss set the tone for another poor stretch, as Toronto managed just 13 wins in 28 games, but the final month of the season would truly be a September to remember. The Toronto Blue Jays closed out the season with a 19–7 record, including a 12–4 mark at SkyDome.
Halladay threw four consecutive complete games from September 1-17, winning them all. He went 5–1 in September with an ERA of 1.41, setting a new club record with his league-leading 22nd victory in his last start of the season on September 27. Halladay earned his second selection as AL Pitcher of the Month, putting the finishing touches on a season that would result in his winning the Cy Young Award. Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells also finished the season in style. Wells set a new club record with his 214th hit on September 27, and ended the season with a league-leading 215 hits to join Paul Molitor as the only Toronto Blue Jays to lead the league in this category. Wells finished the year with a .317 average, 33 homers and 117 RBI. He also provided stellar defense in center field. Carlos Delgado led the league with 145 RBI, joining George Bell as the only Toronto Blue Jays to lead the league in runs batted in while becoming the first Toronto player to lead the entire Majors. Delgado’s final month of the season was highlighted by a four home run performance against Tampa Bay on September 25. He became just the 15th player in Major League history to hit four homers in a game, and just the sixth to do so in four consecutive at-bats. Delgado’s third home run that night was the 300th of this career.
Several other Toronto Blue Jays made key contributions during the 2003 season. Rookie Aquilino Lopez took over as the team’s closer and notched 14 saves, while Josh Towers was added to the starting rotation and compiled a record of 6–1. Reed Johnson proved to be a fine addition in right field, ranking among the rookie leaders in many offensive categories. Hitting mostly in the leadoff position, he batted .294 with 10 homers, 79 runs scored and 52 RBI. Frank Catalanotto also provided a spark from the number-two spot in the batting order, with a .299 average and a career-high 13 homers and 59 RBI. Josh Phelps clubbed 20 home runs, while Orlando Hudson provided record-setting defense at second base by leading the American League with a franchise-best 477 assists.
The Blue Jays finished 19 games worse than they did in 2003, and injuries played a big part as the team got off to a slow start. Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay and Frank Catalanotto all missed at least a month, sinking the Jays out of third place for the first time in seven seasons. They finished last for the first time since Tampa Bay entered the league, and one had to go all the way back to 1980 to find a Toronto team that lost more games.
The silver lining was strong rookie showings from Dave Bush, Alex Rios and Jason Frasor. Orlando Hudson progressed, Wells won a Gold Glove and Ted Lilly became an All-Star.