The Chicago Cubs have had little trouble with National League competition in compiling the best record in the majors. Now, they’ll hope to carry it over against the American League.
Trying for a fifth consecutive victory, the Cubs open their first interleague series of 2008 Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Chicago (43-24) won 3-2 in 11 innings Thursday to complete a three-game sweep of Atlanta in its first game since losing star Alfonso Soriano for up to six weeks with a broken hand.
While the Cubs have won 11 straight at Wrigley Field for an NL-leading 29-8 home record, they are 14-16 on the road. They did, however, go 4-3 on a road swing through San Diego and Los Angeles last week.
Chicago is 78-79 during interleague play, going 8-4 versus the AL in 2007. The Cubs are 2-4 all-time against the Blue Jays (34-34), losing two of three in Toronto in 2003. They’ll follow up this series with a trip to surprising Tampa Bay before returning home to face the crosstown rival White Sox.
“We’ve got a tough stretch here,” manager Lou Piniella told the Cubs’ official Web site. “Last year, we did really well against the American League. So let’s hope that our fortune stays the same.”
Chicago’s Jim Edmonds had two RBIs, including a game-tying homer in the ninth inning Thursday, while former Blue Jay Reed Johnson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the 11th. Edmonds has two homers and 11 RBIs while hitting .268 in 19 games since being signed by the Cubs on May 15.
Johnson is hitting .267 with 28 RBIs after he was released prior to the season by Toronto, where he was a fan favorite from 2003-07.
“Hopefully he doesn’t get too many hits against us,” Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill told the team’s official Web site. “But I’d like to see him succeed.”
The Cubs, who lead the NL with 372 runs and a .283 batting average, face one of the major’s top pitching staff’s in Toronto, which posts a 3.49 ERA.
“They have continued to go out there and do what we ask as a pitching core,” Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said. “As a one-unit type thing.”
A.J. Burnett (5-6, 4.98 ERA) takes the ball for the Blue Jays looking to bounce back from allowing eight runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-5 loss to Baltimore on Saturday. The loss dropped him to 2-2 with an 8.65 ERA in five home starts.
The right-hander, who beat Philadelphia on May 17 in his only career interleague outing, is 2-0 with a 4.25 ERA in three games against the Cubs, all while with Florida.
Toronto, 95-101 in interleague play, is coming off a 2-1 loss to Seattle at home on Wednesday to drop two of three to the lowly Mariners. The Blue Jays have lost eight of their last 11 and are 1-6 in games decided by one run during that span.
Matt Stairs drove in the only run Wednesday for Toronto, which scored six runs and recorded 21 hits against Seattle.
The Blue Jays offense looks to bounce back when Chicago’s Sean Gallagher (3-2, 4.42) makes his first career appearance against Toronto. The rookie right-hander allowed two earned runs and three hits over five innings of a 3-0 loss to the Dodgers last Friday.
Toronto took two of three at Philadelphia from May 16-18 in its first interleague series this season.