This week’s six-game homestand against offensive powerhouses Colorado and Baltimore should be a good test for the improving Blue Jays pitching staff.
It might also be coming at the ideal time for hitters such as Adam Lind, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus.
The Rockies came to town first and have promptly been shut down by the surging Blue Jays, dropping the first two games of the three-game series by scores of 2-0 and 8-3. Toronto will try to make it eight straight wins in Wednesday's series finale at 7:07 p.m. ET.
Colorado arrived without starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (broken rib) but began the week leading the National League in hitting with a .276 batting average, tied with St. Louis for second in on-base percentage (.336) and shared top spot in the major leagues with Baltimore in slugging percentage (.453).
Baltimore, which provides the competition for a three-game set starting Friday following an off day, entered play Monday second in the American League with a .273 average and .325 OBP.
Sure, Toronto has received stellar starting pitching of late from the likes of Mark Buehrle, Esmil Rogers, R.A. Dickey and newcomer Chien-Ming Wang, but the Jays remained 28th of 30 teams in the majors with a 4.99 earned-run average entering Monday.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons will be hoping Rasmus can maintain his power stroke for the homestand. Three of the centre-fielder’s four hits on the team’s just-completed six-game road trip were home runs over the past three days to give him eight long balls in 34 games this season.
The left-handed hitting Rasmus is hitting .282 with five homers in 31 home starts in 2013. His average is even better in interleague play (.313 entering Monday) over the past two seasons and he boasts a .363 OBP against NL teams in that span. Rasmus went 0-for-2 Monday with a walk and run scored and got the night off Tuesday against Canadian lefty Jeff Francis.
Bautista hasn’t homered in six games but tops all Toronto hitters with 23 in interleague action since it began in 1997. He also has 50 runs batted in during those 73 contests while hitting .249 with a .357 OBP prior to Monday's series opener.
Fellow slugger Edwin Encarnacion went deep Tuesday for his first home run in six starts and has clubbed 19 homers in 54 interleague matchups along with 41 RBIs to go with a .279 average.
Lind began the week only four plate appearances shy of qualifying for the AL batting title. He went 11-for-27 (.407) on the Jays' recent road trip to give him a .350 average that would have ranked second to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.352) on Monday.
He tops all current Jays hitters with 86 interleague games and, while faring decently in the power department (12 homers, 36 RBIs), his .239 average ranks among the lowest on the club.
Next to the injured Brett Lawrie, Cabrera is Toronto’s top hitter for average in interleague play this season among the regulars at .327. But he has yet to homer in 13 games versus NL competition, covering 52 at-bats.
The Blue Jays have a 8-5 record in interleague play this season and are 140-156 overall.
They will face starting pitcher Juan Nicasio (4.2, 4.86 ERA) on Wednesday. Cabrera has had the most success of any current Blue Jay against the right-hander, going 2-for-4 with a double and home run.
Blue Jays' interleague record
Season Record 1997 4-11 1998 9-7 1999 9-9 2000 9-9 2001 8-10 2002 9-9 2003 10-8 2004 8-10 2005 8-10 2006 9-9 2007 10-8 2008 8-10 2009 7-11 2010 7-11 2011 8-10 2012 9-9 2013 8-5 ALL-TIME 140-156