Atlanta manager Bobby Cox has quite a history with new Toronto skipper Cito Gaston, but it’s been a while since the two have squared off against one another.
Cox and Gaston will be managing against each other for the first time in over a decade when the Braves and Blue Jays open a three-game series at Rogers Centre.
Gaston was named manager of the Blue Jays (38-42) last Friday after John Gibbons was fired. It is Gaston’s second stint with Toronto - he also managed the team from 1990-97, winning back-to-back World Series titles in 1992-93.
The first of those championships came against Atlanta and Cox, who managed the Blue Jays from 1982-85 before his second stint as Braves manager began in 1990. Cox hired Gaston to be Toronto’s hitting coach when he became the Blue Jays’ manager.
The ’92 Series marked the first time the two managed against each other. The only other matchup came June 16-18, 1997, when Atlanta took two of three in Toronto.
“I played with Cito in the minor leagues,” Cox told the Braves’ official team Web site. “We go back a long way.”
The Braves (39-41) are 6-12 against the Blue Jays in interleague play and were swept at home in three games in the last meeting, June 20-22, 2006.
Despite his history with Gaston and the Blue Jays, Cox likely won’t have much time for nostalgia this weekend. The Braves are dealing with a slew of injuries - third baseman Chipper Jones, center fielder Mark Kotsay, left fielder Matt Diaz and shortstop Yunel Escobar were all out of the starting lineup in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Milwaukee, and fill-in shortstop Omar Infante strained his hamstring and had to leave the game.
Kotsay and Diaz are both on the disabled list, and Atlanta is hoping Escobar and Infante can avoid landing there. However, Jones, who leads the majors with a .394 batting average, hopes to serve as designated hitter against the Blue Jays and return to third base next week.
The Braves avoided a three-game sweep with Wednesday’s victory and improved to 3-10 with Jones out of the starting lineup.
“We’re not that far out of it,” said second baseman Kelly Johnson, who batted third in Jones’ place and drove in three runs. “Let’s win these games and get everybody healthy and then see what happens.”
The Blue Jays are 3-3 under Gaston, including Thursday’s 7-1 win over Edinson Volquez and Cincinnati. Toronto is averaging 6.2 runs under its new manager despite a 1-0 loss in his debut.
“We’re swinging the bats better,” said Scott Rolen, who drove in three runs Thursday. “We’ve got a nice little thing going here now.”
The Blue Jays will try to keep their offense going against Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens (7-3, 3.20 ERA), who leads NL rookies in wins and will be trying to match Tim Hudson for the team lead in victories. The 22-year-old right-hander gave up three unearned runs in six innings without getting a decision in Atlanta’s 5-4 win over Seattle on Saturday.
Jurrjens has not lost since May 12 in Pittsburgh, going 3-0 in seven starts since then. He has never faced Toronto.
The Blue Jays counter with Dustin McGowan (6-5, 4.21), who is 4-1 with a 4.21 ERA over his last six starts. The right-hander gave up four runs in five innings Sunday, but still earned an 8-5 win in Pittsburgh.
McGowan is making his first career appearance against the Braves.