After three late-inning losses in their last three home games, the Toronto Blue Jays are heading somewhere that will conjure up even worse memories.
The Blue Jays will look to end a long streak of struggles in Arlington as they begin a three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Friday.
Toronto (4-5) - fresh off three straight home losses to Oakland - was swept convincingly in their only series at Texas in 2007, getting outscored 21-7 in three losses.
But that’s only a small part of its struggles in Texas. Since center fielder Vernon Wells played his first full season with the Blue Jays in 2002, Toronto is just 6-22 at Rangers Ballpark, including 16 losses in 19 games there since the beginning of the 2004 season.
“We’re going to see what we’re made of,” said Wells, who grew up in Arlington and is hitless in his last 17 at-bats there. “We haven’t played well there for as long as I’ve been here. If we don’t start playing better baseball, the same thing is going to happen to us there.”
Meanwhile, the Rangers (5-4) have averaged 6.6 runs in their last 19 home games against Toronto, reaching double digits five times.
Texas used a different formula - strong pitching - to sweep a home doubleheader against Baltimore on Thursday, as the second win put above the .500 mark for the first time since manager Ron Washington took over in 2007.
The Rangers, whose team ERA has ranked in the majors’ bottom half each year since 1991, allowed just five runs in the two games, and rank third in the AL with a 3.58 ERA.
“Our pitching has been incredible,” shortstop Michael Young said. “They’ve been leading the way for us. … We know we have a lot of guys capable of doing special things.”
Vicente Padilla will look to continue the trend with a third straight solid start. Padilla (1-0, 2.77 ERA) got the win Sunday after allowing three earned runs in seven innings of a 10-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels - one game after getting a no-decision despite giving up just one run in six innings to Seattle.
Both those starts were on the road, a stark improvement from last year when he had an 8.04 ERA. Padilla, who went 4-3 with a 3.28 ERA at home in 2007, is 3-1 with a 3.25 ERA lifetime versus the Blue Jays.
Jesse Litsch (1-0, 3.60) will counter for the Blue Jays, making his first career appearance against Texas. In his first start of 2008, Litsch allowed two runs on five hits in five innings, picking up the win as Toronto routed Boston 10-2 on Saturday.
The 23-year-old right-hander has now won three straight decisions and allowed two or fewer runs in four straight starts dating back to last season.
Starting pitching wasn’t the problem for the Blue Jays as they were swept by the Athletics in Toronto this week.
Instead, the bullpen suffered all three losses. The Blue Jays entered the ninth inning of each game either ahead or tied, but closer Jeremy Accardo took the loss in the ninth inning of the first two games before Brandon League allowed two runs in the 12th inning of Thursday’s 3-2 loss.
“When it gets late, there’s not a whole lot of breathing room there,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told the team’s official Web site. “The whole team, you’ve got a chance to walk the game off right there. It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated. We’re all frustrated.”