After a promising April, May could not be going any worse for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays look to avoid losing 10 straight games for the first time in nearly 13 years as they open a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Friday at Rogers Centre.
Toronto (13-21) finished the first month of the season in second place in the AL East with a 13-12 record, 3 1/2 games behind first-place Boston. Since defeating Texas 6-1 on April 30, though, the Blue Jays are winless and have dropped to last place, 10 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.
Toronto lost to Boston 8-0 on Thursday, and has been outscored 72-27 during its nine-game losing skid. The Blue Jays haven’t lost 10 consecutive games since June 18-28, 1994.
“A lot of guys in here are pressing right now, including myself,” said ace Roy Halladay, who allowed eight runs and 11 hits in five innings on Thursday. “These things kind of take on a life of their own. You’ve just got to focus on your job.”
Toronto took two of three from Tampa at Tropicana Field April 6-8, and the last time they met at Rogers Centre last Sept. 15-17, the Blue Jays swept a three-game series.
Tampa Bay (14-20) is also struggling and enters this series after losing its fourth straight, 11-6 on Thursday to Baltimore.
The Devil Rays fell behind 5-0 after one inning, and have been outscored 36-4 in the first inning this season.
“It was that first inning stuff. It’s hard to put yourself in that position and then have to fight back,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Leadoff hitter Rocco Baldelli was hitless in four at-bats on Thursday, and is just 2-for-33 (.061) in his last eight games. Baldelli is 2-for-9 in his career against Friday starter A.J. Burnett (2-3, 5.09 ERA), who is looking to avoid losing his third straight start.
The right-hander gave up three runs—all on solo homers—while striking out a season-high nine in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss to Texas on Sunday.
Burnett, who went 10-8 last season, has not lost three straight starts since dropping a career-high five in a row Aug. 24-Sept. 14, 2005.
In his only start against Tampa Bay last season, Burnett allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings of a 6-2 victory on Aug. 17. He is 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA in nine lifetime starts against the Devil Rays, holding them to a .169 batting average.
Tampa Bay counters with Scott Kazmir (2-1, 3.71), who looks to avenge his lone loss in 2007. He got off to a rough start to the season, and the Blue Jays were able to take advantage, tagging him for two homers and four runs overall in seven innings of a 6-3 defeat on April 8.
Since that loss, the 23-year-old left-hander has been pitching much better. He gave up nine runs in 12 innings over his first two starts of the season, but has allowed just nine earned runs in 31 2-3 innings over his last five starts.
Kazmir gave up one run, five hits and struck out eight in six innings of Toronto’s 3-2, 12-inning victory over Oakland on Saturday for his fourth quality start in five games.
Although Kazmir has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his nine career starts against Toronto, he is just 2-3 in those games.