The resurgent Lilly is looking for his fifth win in six decisions as the Blue Jays begin a four-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday at McAfee Coliseum.
Lilly (9-8, 3.89 ERA) had lost five of six starts before turning his season around with a June 15 win over the Baltimore Orioles, striking out eight in six scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory.
That win began a stretch during which the left-hander has gone 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA. He’s struck out 54 batters in his last 51 2-3 innings.
Lilly is in position for his fourth straight 10-win season and on pace to top his career high of 12 victories, achieved in 2003 and 2004.
Though he had another quality start and did not get a decision in a 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday, Lilly wasn’t thrilled by his six-inning performance with his team chasing the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.
“We’re trying to catch Boston,” he said. “We’ve got to go out and win every (game). As a starting pitcher, you’ve got to take some responsibility.”
The Blue Jays (56-45) go into this series in third place, 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, and are four games back of the Yankees in the wild-card race.
Lilly is 3-3 with a 5.24 ERA against the Athletics and won his only start against them this year, allowing three runs over 7 2-3 innings in Toronto’s 8-3 win on May 11.
Oakland (52-49) stopped a three-game losing streak with Wednesday’s 5-1 win over the Red Sox. Besides remaining tied atop the AL West with the Los Angeles Angels, the A’s also stopped a five-game slide at home.
Right-hander Joe Blanton (10-8, 4.90) will face Lilly Thursday, seeking his third straight win.
Blanton is coming off victories over the majors’ top teams record-wise, beating Boston on July 16 and the Detroit Tigers last Saturday.
He held the Red Sox to one run and five hits in seven innings of Oakland’s 8-1 win, and recovered from a five-run first to pitch five innings in a 9-5 win over the Tigers.
“We had a chance to get buried but Blanton bowed his neck,” A’s manager Ken Macha said.
One of Blanton’s worst starts of the season came against Toronto on May 10, when he allowed eight runs in six innings of a 9-7 defeat. He’s 1-2 with a 4.50 career ERA against the Blue Jays.
Blanton will hope Frank Thomas can continue his resurgence.
The designated hitter homered twice and drove in four runs Wednesday while raising his season batting average to .250, the highest it’s been since opening day. He’s hitting .290 with six homers and 19 RBIs in July despite nursing a tender right quadriceps muscle, which forced him to miss 13 games last month on the disabled list.
“I’m getting my legs back under me,” Thomas said. “I’m happy right now with the direction I’m headed. I said hopefully by the fourth or fifth month I would take off like I’m capable. Missing a year and a half … it’s going to take at-bats, lots of at-bats.”
Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus has hit .440 (11-for-25) with two homers and 10 RBIs in his last seven games. He’s hitless in six career at-bats against Blanton.