The Toronto Blue Jays have been able to turn their season around even though their lineup has struggled.
Marco Scutaro certainly can’t be blamed for their hitting woes.
With Scutaro filling in nicely at shortstop, the Blue Jays come off their best game at the plate in over a month as they continue a four-game series with the struggling Kansas City Royals on Saturday.
Toronto (25-25) has scored just 192 runs on the season, and a lack of productivity at the plate was partly to blame for its 11-17 record through April. Since then, the Blue Jays have won 14 of 22 despite averaging 3.4 runs during that span.
On Friday night, Toronto beat Kansas City (21-27) 7-1 in the opener of this series to reach .500 for the first time since it was 10-10 on April 21. It was only the third time this season the Blue Jays have won by more than three runs, and they crossed the plate more than six times for the first time since an 11-3 win over Baltimore on April 15.
Scutaro went 2-for-4 and matched a career high with four RBIs. The veteran utilityman is batting .365 (19-for-52) since taking over at shortstop after David Eckstein and John McDonald were both injured in the same game, May 6 against Tampa Bay.
“He’s been huge for us, keeping us afloat,” Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay said. “He’s come through in some big spots.”
Scutaro is batting .471 (8-for-17) with a home run, a double and six RBIs in his last four games against the Royals.
Former Royal Matt Stairs, meanwhile, has missed two straight games with a stiff neck, and his status for Saturday’s game is uncertain. The designated hitter, who played for Kansas City from 2004-06, leads Toronto with six home runs.
The Blue Jays could use Stairs back in the lineup if they hope to follow up on Friday’s outburst.
As bad as Toronto has been at the plate, Kansas City has been even worse. With 178 runs, the Royals are one of the few teams that have scored fewer times than the Blue Jays. Kansas City has lost five straight, scoring one run or none three times in that span.
The Royals will try to get their bats going against Toronto’s Jesse Litsch (5-1, 4.22 ERA), who is returning to the rotation after making his first career relief appearance. He gave up two runs and five hits in three innings as the Blue Jays lost 10-3 to Philadelphia on May 16.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his last four starts. He opened that stretch by earning a win against the Royals, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings as the Blue Jays won 5-2 on April 27.
Litsch was the losing pitcher in his only other appearance versus Kansas City. He pitched 6 2-3 innings, gave up five runs - two earned - and six hits in a 6-2 loss on Aug. 13.
The Royals will counter with Luke Hochevar (3-3, 4.29), who is coming off one of his worst starts of the season. He was reached for seven runs - four earned - and five hits while walking six in six innings as Kansas City lost 7-0 to Boston on Monday night.
The right-hander earned a win in his only career appearance against Toronto on April 26. He pitched six innings, giving up one run and six hits in a 2-1 victory.