Testing Toronto's Mettle
My dog has nearly seen as many no-hitters live as I have. My wife and our shihtzu, Barkley, were in the stands for Dog Day at the Rogers Centre when Dustin McGowan took his no-no into the ninth inning.
From a reporter’s perspective, that was quite a hectic game. When Frank Thomas came to bat in the eighth, one swing away from 500 homers, and McGowan’s no-hitter was still intact, I was imagining the 20 sidebars I’d be writing after the game. It sure would’ve been something else to have both those accomplishments happen on one night. But alas…Jeff Baker.
On to other things…
Judging from there being no post on here yesterday, I’m sure the loyalists out there figured out I didn’t make the trip to Minnesota. I get to use these next few days to gather my strength for my upcoming three-week stint on the road. I’ll join up with the Jays in Seattle, and will be on the road all the way until Toronto returns home to play those same Mariners on July 20. I know I’ll be ready for some home cookin’ by then, and I’m sure the Blue Jays will be feeling the same.
This is without a doubt the biggest stretch of the season for Toronto. Think back to last year, when the Jays went 2-8 on a West coast swing through Seattle and Oakland, which kickstarted the seven-game losing streak that essentially took the club out of the Wild Card race. That shows you how brutal this trip can be, and this time around it’s set up with even more obstacles.
Counting Toronto’s win last night — which took the club over .500 since April 30, one day before that nine-game losing streak happened — 18 of the next 21 games are on the road for the Jays. Topping it off, all 21 games are against teams above, or right behind, Toronto in the standings.
Four games in Minnesota, which is currently a half-game above the Jays in the Wild Card race. Three games against Seattle, which is three games ahead of Toronto in the WC. Then, three against the A’s, who are one game above the Jays in the WC. Follow that up with a brief three-game home set against the Wild Card-leading Indians. After the All-Star break, it’s consecutive four-game sets against Boston, leading the East, and New York, which is one game behind the Jays.
Needless to say, if Toronto can return home on July 20 with a record at or above .500, I think the road trip can be called a success. That will be tough, though. At least there’s good news on the horizon for Toronto, considering Lyle Overbay and Reed Johnson should both be back around, or a little after, the All-Star break. Reinforcements are coming.
Overbay is scheduled to hit off a tee in Minnesota today, and Johnson is scheduled to start a Minor League rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League in about a week. One question Toronto will have to deal with is, when those two do return from the DL, what becomes of Matt Stairs? He’s certainly been an unsung hero over the past few weeks for the Blue Jays.
Since I’m not on the road, here are some highlights from today’s clips:
- A.J. Burnett threw in a bullpen session on Monday and is all systems go for Thursday’s start against the Twins. He also took a moment to dicuss the no-hitter he threw with the Marlins. Thanks go to Leslie Parker for filling in for me at bluejays.com.
- As long as players are reminiscing, Richard Griffin of the Star talks to Frank Thomas about his first career home run. That blast came at the Metrodome, where the Big Hurt is looking for No. 500 right now.
- In his game story, Mike Rutsey of the Sun discusses the brutal road trip Toronto is taking on.
- Jeremy Sandler of the National Post writes about the Jays experiencing some recent success in spite of injuries, and the importance of the current 10-game swing.
- Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail follows up on Royce Clayton’s Sunday sit down with GM J.P. Ricciardi.
- Also, did anyone catch John Thomson’s first start for the Royals? The Toronto castoff went seven and allowed two earned runs on 81 pitches to pick up a win in his season debut.