Toronto (69-61) at Cleveland (60-69)

  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Mon Aug 28, 2006
  • TV: RSN, STO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

It took more than half a season, but A.J. Burnett is finally starting to look worthy of the investment the Toronto Blue Jays made in him during the offseason.

Burnett (6-5, 4.27 ERA) looks to win his fifth consecutive start when Toronto begins a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field on Monday.

The Blue Jays signed the right-hander, who’s had a history of arm trouble, to a five-year deal worth $55 million over the winter. Burnett, though, had elbow soreness throughout spring training and missed two months of the regular season.

In his first eight starts since returning from the DL, Burnett was 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA. Since then, though, he’s won all four his starts—including victories over the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota and Oakland, all playoff contenders—and has recorded a 3.04 ERA.

Facing the A’s on Tuesday, Burnett gave up three runs and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings of the Jays’ 4-3 win. Burnett is 1-1 with a 6.97 in two starts against the Indians, but in the loss at Jacobs Field in 2004 while with Florida, he was shelled for eight runs and 12 hits in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-1 defeat.

Toronto (69-61) took two of three from Kansas City after a 10-6 victory Sunday. Ted Lilly won in his first start since tussling with manager John Gibbons last Monday, and Bengie Molina hit a grand slam.

“It’s all behind us. We get along just fine,” Gibbons said of Lilly who allowed six runs in 5 1-3 innings. “It’s just one those things that happen. It’s gone. You know what, he should be something today. He bounced back today with a big win and he deserved it.”

Gregg Zaun and Vernon Wells also homered for the Blue Jays, who have alternated wins and losses in their last seven games.

The Indians (60-69) will hand the ball to Paul Byrd (8-6, 4.72), who is coming off his worst start of the season, The right-hander lasted just two-thirds of an inning Wednesday against the Royals, and gave up nine runs— three earned—and eight hits.

Cleveland, which trailed 10-1 after one inning, rallied to beat Kansas City 15-13 in 10 innings.

“The word is unbelievable,” Byrd said of the team’s comeback. “I really don’t know what to say. It was incredible. I’m in shock that our team came back.”

Byrd has yet to lose since the All-Star break, going 2-0 in eight starts. He has recorded a 5.70 ERA and opponent batting average of .358 in that span.

Byrd is 2-2 with 3.21 ERA including two complete games in four career starts against the Blue Jays.

Cleveland failed to complete the three-game sweep of AL Central-leading Detroit after losing 7-1 on Sunday. Victor Martinez’s RBI single in the first helped the Indians avoid their seventh shutout of the season, but snapped a four-game winning streak.

“We had a chance to sweep the Tigers and the reason we didn’t is me,” said starter Cliff Lee, who fell to 0-4 in five starts this season against Detroit. “It’s hard to win when you’re giving up a run almost every inning.”

This is the first time the Indians and Blue Jays have met this season. Cleveland is 6-1 in its last seven at home against Toronto.

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Starting Pitchers

A. Burnett PIT vs. P. Byrd BOS
10-8 Record 10-9
3.98 ERA 4.88
118 K 88
39 BB 38
1.30 WHIP 1.51


Monday, Aug 28