The Blue Jays and Burnett look to continue their strong play when they meet the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the middle contest of a three-game series Saturday at Tropicana Field.
Dustin McGowan struck out a career-high 12 in eight innings and scattered four hits to lead Toronto (72-68) to a 7-2 win on Friday. Gregg Zaun hit a three-run homer for the Blue Jays, who have won seven of 10 and trail the New York Yankees by 6 1/2 games in the AL wild card race.
“No one in this clubhouse has given up,” Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill said. “Obviously it’s not over. And even if it is, we’re going to play to win like we always do. Right now it’s just finish strong and not worry about what’s going on.”
Burnett (8-7, 3.71 ERA) has been especially strong since being activated from the 15-day disabled list. The right-hander has thrown five straight quality starts, going 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a .153 opponent batting average since missing six weeks with right shoulder pain.
He beat Seattle on Sunday, allowing three runs and four hits over seven innings in a 6-4 win. Burnett retired the first 10 batters in order and finished with one walk and seven strikeouts on 115 pitches.
“A.J. was locked in,” manager John Gibbons told the Blue Jays’ official Web site, “especially early on when he was getting all those strikeouts. What that leads to is a high pitch count, but in those middle innings he really settled in and got some ground-ball outs.”
Burnett is 6-1 with a 2.57 ERA and a .179 opponent batting average in 11 career starts versus the Devil Rays - his second-most wins against any opponent. He is 1-0 in two starts against them this season, allowing four runs through 13 2-3 innings while striking out 23.
The Blue Jays hope that dominance continues as they try to overcome a major off-the-field distraction surrounding Troy Glaus. Major League Baseball asked to meet with the veteran third baseman following allegations he received performance-enhancing drugs from a Florida pharmacy under investigation for illegally distributing prescription medications.
Glaus reportedly received multiple shipments of nandrolone and testosterone between September 2003 and May 2004. He didn’t speak to reporters before Friday’s game, but team president Paul Godfrey did address the situation.
“The accusations made today in the media … are simply accusations,” Godfrey said. “I am in no position to make comment on information that is attributed to an unnamed source.”
Glaus was hitless Friday after going 9-for-17 with three homers and seven RBIs in his previous six games.
The Devil Rays (58-83) were held to four hits Friday, one game after beating Baltimore 17-2 and recording 22 hits. They fell for the fourth time in the last 14 contests.
Jason Hammel (2-4, 6.95) tries to build on his best start since joining the starting rotation on July 21 when he takes the ball for Tampa Bay. The right-hander began the season in the bullpen and then dropped his first four decisions as a starter.
He ended that slide on Sunday when he held the New York Yankees to one run and five hits over five-plus innings in an 8-2 win. Hammel didn’t issue a walk and struck out seven for his first victory in 18 career starts.
“It was all working together today,” said Hammel, who recorded the win on his 25th birthday.
Hammel didn’t earn a decision in his only start versus the Blue Jays on Aug. 1, allowing two runs and three hits through three innings of a 6-2 win.