It’s been a while since the Toronto Blue Jays won consecutive games. The last being two weeks before the All-Star break, only a game off the AL East pace. But the Jays’ hot offense has since cooled off, and they’re going in tonight to face Josh Donaldson’s return to Oakland, on Tuesday night, one game closer to the bottom of the division rather than the top.
The Blue Jays (47-47) were strong enough to take two of three games in a home series with the Tampa Bay Rays. This past Sunday’s win, 4-0 put them in a position to stick together a few victories for the first time in almost a month – since June 24-26. Since then, they’re 7-12 with the seven games only scoring two runs or fewer. Their .237 average has them fallen to 4 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees.
Josh Donaldson was traded to Toronto in a five-player deal On Nov. 28, 2014. It was a trade that the Jays shocked the baseball world with, by obtaining the MVP candidate from the A’s for third baseman Brett Lawrie and shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto plus pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin. Since the trade, this will be the first time the two teams have met. Graveman will start Tuesday with Lawrie hitting .280 with eight homers and 37 RBIs in 88 games. Nolin is 2-1 at Triple-A Nashville with a 2.67 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. Barreto is hitting .299 with 12 homers, 43 RBIs and eight steals with Class-A Stockton.
Donaldson will make his debut after being stuck in a 1-for-20 slump. The pitcher Donaldson will face tonight was also a part of the blockbuster deal. Kendall Graveman, a right-hander, struggled a lot at home to start the season but hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts in Oakland as part of a 15-inning scoreless streak.
Oakland (43-51) has won four out of its last five, and its 29-21 record going back to May 23 is the best in the AL. In this past Sunday’s 14-1 home win over Minnesota, newcomer Jake Smolinski homered twice.
“It was a good day for everybody. Pitchers pitched great, hitters hit great. It was just a fun win,” Smolinski told media after the game. “The team made me feel like I was a part since Day 1. Obviously everybody wants to help contribute and I’m just trying to do my part right now and hopefully we’ll get it rolling.”
The Jay’s will be looking to their star, Mark Buehrle for an encore effort. Buehrle (10-5, 3.34) hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in his last eight starts, and a 6-2 win in Kansas City on July 11 gave him his 15th straight 10-win season. The left-hander hasn’t walked anyone in 22 innings over the last three games. But his track record in Oakland is 3-8 with a 4.15 ERA in 15 starts.
“He’s one of my favorite pitchers to play behind,” Jay’s shortstop Jose Reyes told the MLB’s site. “He keeps you in the game. He just gets the ball and works fast, so you’re going to have a lot of ground balls. He has had an amazing career.”
The A’s pitching staff, with an average age of 28 years old (fifth-youngest in the AL), boasts the league’s best ERA at 3.35. Their rotation — now Gray, Graveman, Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz — is even better: 34-34 with a 3.00 ERA.
Against Toronto, the A’s won four of seven in the last season’s series, and the home team swept both sets with the Blue Jays scoring four runs in Oakland.
As for injuries, outfielder Coco Crisp (neck) is out until at least late this month. The pitching staff has been hardest hit: Sean Doolittle (shoulder), ambidextrous Pat Venditte (shoulder), Jesse Hahn (forearm), A.J. Griffin (biceps) and Jarrod Parker (elbow).
Our Pick: Look for the Jays to put more wins together out West. Jays take two out of three from the A’s.