The Toronto Blue Jays have spent the past month sliding down the AL East standings, and working their way back into contention won’t be easy in baseball’s toughest division.
It’ll be nearly impossible if they don’t start winning games against the NL.
The Blue Jays are 0-6 in interleague play with 12 games remaining, and there’s no break in sight as they travel to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday for the opener of a three-game set against the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Among baseball’s biggest surprises through the season’s first six weeks, Toronto (34-31) has been in a free-fall over the past four. The Blue Jays were an AL-best 27-14 through May 18, but a nine-game losing streak that began the next day paved the way for a 7-17 record since - the AL’s worst.
Included in Toronto’s recent slide have been six losses to NL East opponents. The Blue Jays were outscored 15-5 while dropping three games in Atlanta from May 22-24 and gave up 24 runs as they were swept at home by Florida over the weekend - nearly half of those in an 11-3 loss Sunday.
“It’s hard to explain,” manager Cito Gaston told the team’s official Web site of Toronto’s interleague struggles. “Some teams beat up on you, some teams don’t.”
Poor pitching has been the Jays’ biggest issue. Toronto has a major league-worst 5.10 ERA since May 19, and it’s allowed 31 homers in 24 games.
“We’ve got to shake this off … and go into Philly with a little chip on our shoulder, and show them that we can play ball - we can be very good, and we’re going to be good,” said Brian Tallet(notes), who allowed eight runs in 3 1-3 innings Sunday.
Keeping the Phillies, who have hit an NL-high 90 home runs, off the scoreboard won’t be easy, particularly in homer-happy Citizens Bank Park. Philadelphia, though, has also allowed a major league-high 91 homers, including 49 in 29 home games.
The Phillies (36-25) let Boston hit eight homers in their weekend series - three on Sunday - but their offense came through to help them avoid a sweep.
“The last few days I’ve been feeling pretty close to the way I felt at the start of 2007,” said Rollins, a .348 career hitter against Toronto. “The stance, where my hands are going to the ball, the way I’m seeing the ball.”
Hamels gave up four runs and 11 hits in five innings Wednesday against the New York Mets, but the Phillies rallied to win 5-4 in 11 innings. Philadelphia is 7-1 with Hamels on the hill since April 28.
The Blue Jays and Phillies will meet for three more games from June 26-28 at Rogers Centre. Toronto took two of three last season at Citizens Bank Park, with Philadelphia’s lone victory coming when Jayson Werth(notes) hit three homers in a 10-3 win.