05/08/2008 12:35 AM ET
Jays' offense may be out of recent funk
Toronto (17-18) vs. Tampa Bay (17-16), Thurs., 7:07 p.m. ET
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays can only pray that what transpired on Wednesday night was a sign of better fortunes to come for their anemic offense. Perhaps the five-run outburst in the eighth inning against the Rays was a turning point for Toronto's lineup.
Only time will tell.
For now, the Jays can certainly cling to the positives that poured from their bats in a 6-2 win over Tampa Bay. The six runs scored by Toronto snapped a dubious streak of 20 consecutive games in which the Jays managed no more than four runs in any single contest.
That means the five runs plated by Toronto in the ninth matched the most runs scored in any one game over the previous 20 affairs. In that eighth, the Jays also churned out three straight hits with runners in scoring position. Toronto hadn't had more than three hits with runners in scoring position in any game during that same stretch.
"It's been a while," Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen said. "We're still putting some pressure on the staff. ... It'd be nice to be a little more consistent through the game and, hopefully, that's coming."
The Jays can only hope. Consider that Toronto went 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, representing the best showing for the club in such situations since going 10-for-17 in an 11-3 romp over Baltimore on April 15. In those 20 games that followed, Toronto hit just .138 with runners in scoring position.
During that same forgettable time period, Toronto hit .230 as a team and averaged just 2.95 runs per game. Fortunately for the club, the pitching staff posted a 3.11 collective ERA over that same span. The Jays' starting pitching has been dominant, helping to offset the lack of run support to a certain extent.
The pitchers were definitely pleased to see the lineup break out of its recent lull, even if it was just for one game.
"I'm sure the guys are more excited than [the pitchers] are," Jays starter Shaun Marcum said. "Just for them to go out and do what they did and finally get us over four runs -- we haven't been over there in a while. They swung the bats well."
The Jays hope to build on the recent success on Thursday, when Toronto closes out a three-game series against the Rays at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays will turn to right-hander Jesse Litsch, who turned in 7 1/3 strong innings en route to a win over the White Sox on Saturday.
The 23-year-old right-hander yielded two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking none. Over his past two starts, Litsch has gone 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA, seven strikeouts and no walks. That's a drastic contrast to his previous two outings, in which he went 0-1 with a 9.72 ERA, allowing nine runs on 17 hits in 8 1/3 innings.
TB: RHP Edwin Jackson (2-3, 4.98 ERA)
TOR: RHP Jesse Litsch (4-1, 4.32 ERA)
In his career against the Rays, Litsch has gone 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts.
Jackson is 0-2 with a 4.22 ERA in six career appearances against the Blue Jays.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said shortstops David Eckstein (sore right hip flexor) and John McDonald (sprained right ankle) would probably not take part in pregame drills on Thursday. It's still possible that one of the infielders could land on the 15-day disabled list. ... Toronto's win on Wednesday snapped a five-game losing streak against Tampa Bay. ... Marcum had a career-best 15 2/3 innings scoreless streaked snapped in the ninth inning on Wednesday. ... With a single in the third inning on Wednesday, Jays outfielder Alex Rios snapped an 0-for-12 dry spell at the plate. ... Toronto's run of 20 straight games with five or fewer runs scored in every game was the longest such streak since 2002, when Detroit went 24 games without having more than five runs in a single game.
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Official game notes
Friday: Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 3-4, 3.00) at Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 1-5, 7.51), 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan, 2-2, 2.95) at Indians (Aaron Laffey, 0-2, 2.84), 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Blue Jays (A.J. Burnett, 3-3, 5.19) at Indians (Fausto Carmona, 3-1, 2.95), 1:05 p.m. ET
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.