The Toronto Blue Jays still are a factor for the AL wild card, but they’d be a lot closer if they could play as well on the road as they do at home.
The Blue Jays seek consecutive road victories for the first time in seven weeks when they close their four-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.
Toronto (59-57) is fourth in the wild card race, trailing co-leaders Seattle and the New York Yankees by 6 1/2 games. The Blue Jays have won nine of 11 games at home since July 21, but are 4-5 on the road in that stretch. They’ve also lost 16 of 26 away from Rogers Centre since last winning consecutive road games on June 13 at San Francisco and June 25 at Minnesota.
Overall this year, Toronto is 35-22 at home, but just 24-35 on the road - tying it with the Los Angeles Angels for the biggest differential in the league.
“We can’t figure out why it is,” Toronto manager John Gibbons told the Blue Jays’ official Web site. “That’s been the difference in our season.”
The Blue Jays hope they’ve begun to turn around their road woes around after pulling away for a 4-1 win over the Royals (51-65) on Sunday. In his first start after being activated from the disabled list, A.J. Burnett allowed only three hits in 7 1-3 innings for his first win since May 22.
“I think he’s going to give us a boost and finish strong,” Gibbons said. “All he’s doing is making a strong rotation even stronger.”
First baseman Lyle Overbay had three hits, including two doubles, and drove in two. He’s batting .294 on the road, compared to .214 at home.
Jesse Litsch (4-4, 3.64 ERA) could help the Blue Jays continue to solve their road struggles. He has a 2.51 ERA in five road starts, and has posted a 0.68 ERA in winning his last two outings away from Toronto.
Overall, Litsch is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last three starts. The rookie right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in five innings against the Yankees on Monday, but did not factor in the Blue Jays’ 5-4 defeat.
“Jesse pitched a good ballgame, he really did,” Gibbons said. “He ought to feel good about himself. He’s been on a roll and he’s been pitching great.”
Litsch has never faced the Royals, who are 7-3 at Kauffman Stadium since July 26.
Kansas City totaled four hits on Sunday, and has scored only seven runs while batting .188 over its last four contests.
The Royals hope to bounce back behind Odalis Perez (6-11, 5.87), who will try to avoid losing three straight starts for the first time since a four-start skid from May 4-July 5, 2005. The left-hander gave up six runs - three earned - in three innings in an 11-4 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday, and has posted a 7.88 ERA in losing both his starts this month.
Perez is 2-2 with a 4.79 ERA in four career starts against the Blue Jays, but gave up four runs in a season-low 1 1-3 innings and took the loss in the Royals’ 9-1 defeat on April 9 in Toronto.